A disturbing trend is increasingly evident in the presentation of the arts on public television. There is, to start with, a concentration on blockbuster productions and series, ranging from histories of art (often indistinguishable from sumptuously produced travelogues) to imported stagings of Shakespeare. In music this approach has meant relying for the most part on the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, the two still viable music performing components of Lincoln Center; it has also meant highlighting star turns by famous singers and instrumentalists performing a repertory notable for high tune content, if for little else.

If this were all that were going on, matters would be dreary enough, especially considering the hopes once entertained for the elevation of taste through public broadcasting. But there is more, and worse. The Public Broadcasting Service has discovered that there is gold in the arts. Now that PBS is...

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