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NY Philharmonic in North Korea

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
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Thirteen blogger: Neal Shapiro, President

It’s going to be a long day for our Great Performances team.

(For days, we’ve been working with our partners at ABC News to bring you coverage of the NY Philharmonic’s historic visit to North Korea. And personally, it’s been great for me to have the team at Thirteen work with ABC News, where I worked for 13 years myself. I’ve known ABC’s Bob Woodruff for years and it turns out that Bob’s wife and I grew up in the same town in upstate NY and went to the same high school).

Yesterday, we took in some satellite feeds from North Korea and we’ve been working with some of the videotaped materials that ABC’s Bob Woodruff pre-taped for us.

This morning, we streamed the concert live at 4 am. We’ve also been taking in satellite feeds all morning: Bob Woodruff’s reporting as well as extra video from ABC News and other sources. Now, we are editing it all together.

When it is done, I think we’ll have a great collaboration between ABC News, PBS and Thirteen.

A reminder, you can see our production at 8 pm on Thirteen and Thirteen HD. It will also be available starting at midnight on http://video.thirteen.org and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf.

Hope to see you there.


  • Songyun Kang

    Neal, that is so awesome that Channel 13 is rebroadcasting this historic moment. Not easy for one to view it live at 4am!

  • Richard Phillips

    I managed to catch the second half of the live show this morning. Bravo! Internet video is really growing up. I looked and sounded almost as good as being there!

  • Napoleon B. Williams

    To PBS, Thirteen WNET New York, Neal Shapiro:
    Re: Bob Woodruff’s Political Commentaries on Great Performance’s
    “The New York Philharmonic Live from North Korea”

    Bob Woodruff’s political commentary on Great Performance’s broadcast, February 26, 2008, “The New York Philharmonic Live from North Korea” was ugly, a disgrace to the cause of culture, and a mangling of an otherwise beautiful, artistic and cultural event by the Philharmonic. Certainly, Great Performances’ broadcasts in the U.S. do not generally include this type of political commentary. Typically, Great Performances’ commentaries are provided by a noted musician or by an outsider who sticks to issues of music, culture, personality, history, and/or development..

    One can only hope that the North Koreans, when they provided a broadcast of the performance to their public on tv and radio, did not do their equivalent of what Bob Woodruff’ did. If they did, Americans would be the first to criticize the action and to name it for what it is, namely rank politicizing . Woodruff’s political comments were distracting and soiled the cultural spirit that was promoted and made evident in everything Lorin Maazel said during the broadcast. Moreover, Woodruff’s political comments aren’t scarce commodities on the networks’ new shows, and thus weren’t things Americans haven’t heard over and over. Indeed, last year, ABC News did extensive political coverage of North Korea, and thus wasn’t filling a void. It’s hard not to assume that Woodruff’s politicizing was being done strictly for personal career interests and political interests of the network ABC.

    By allowing Woodruff to fill the non concert period of the broadcast with political commentary, the opportunity to focus on cultural and musical aspects pertaining to the North Koreans, was lost. For example, it would have been worthwhile to have been given information on (1) the history and use of the East Pyongyang Grand Theater in which the concert was performed, (2) the nature of performers and performances at the Grand Theater during recent years, (3) the nature of North Korean orchestras, (4) how North Koreans become members of orchestras or become conductors, (5) the familiarity of North Koreans with Western music, (6) how Korean music differs from Western music, etc. In short, much cultural information was lost because Woodruff was allowed to do what network news reporters do daily, namely, spout twice told tales heard constantly.

    If a similar opportunity like this were to arise in the future, I hope PBS and Thirteen WNET New York would refuse to depart from the traditions of the Great Performances series, and simply tell networks like ABC and their reporters to broadcast the events by themselves if they won’t conform to the traditions and standards of the Great Performances’ series.

    Napoleon B. Williams

  • BenInBrooklyn

    I couldn’t disagree with Napolean Williams more. I thought the non-music portions of this program were fascinating, if not just as fascinating as the music. Given the rare opportunity to film the people and the country because of the closed and mysterious nature of NK, it would have been a hugely missed opportunity to not put some focus on their society. Also, I don’t think Woodruff’s commentary was over the top in its judgements. Sure, he pointed out some of things about what his reports saw that certainly seem backwards to us in the West. But to not point those out would have been even more bizarre.

  • Mario Rios Pinot

    I agree with Napolean Williams. Woodruff played the political card just in case we have not been brainwashed enough with overkill about North Korea. Asking a class room of teens about what is democracy probably would have met with the same response from students in the USA. Besides can’t we live with political differences? Are we on a high moral ground, what about The Iran USA fiasco, or Afhganistan, or Israel, Iran????!!!! If they do not have access to the Internet then why ask a young teen about Google? What is the point? Lack of dialogue? So what? Are we so much better off? What about our sexual predators? North Korea is what it is. Lets look at our own garden before we get on our high horse.