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About The Ascent of Money 2-Hour Special

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
  • comments (2)

Inside Thirteen blogger: William R. Grant, Executive Producer, The Ascent of Money and Director of Science, Natural History, and Features Programs at WNET.ORG

A few hours before the two-hour television special The Ascent of Money went to air, I took a phone call from someone who works with a Midwest venture capitalist anxious to be able to tell her boss “how he would look in the show.” I understood the boss’ concern. Few financiers look good these days.

Our rules prohibit talking about the details of programs with participants before the broadcast. I talked with her about the program in general and she promised to let me know the reaction in her office. We’ll see.

The two-hour broadcast was an important way-station in a long and complicated production that began two years ago when Stephen Segaller, who was then WNET’s director of news and public affairs programs and is now vice-president of content, began taking with Niall Ferguson about Ferguson’s plans to do a book and a television series on the history of the global economy.

Ferguson is a Scottish historian educated at Oxford who holds appointments in both the history department and the Business School at Harvard University. Ferguson had been on PBS in 2006 with his series War of the World, his reinterpretation of World War II, and now he would do the roots of the current world economy. As it turned out, it was something like trying to analyze World War II while the war was going on. During 2008, especially during the last months of production in the fall, bad news was followed by worse news as the economy of most of the world plummeted into deep recession.

The plan had been to broadcast a four-hour series on PBS in June but PBS asked us to create a shorter version earlier. We raced to cut a two-hour program (watch it online) for broadcast this week. We scrambled, and thanks to Niall’s production team, especially producer Adrian Pennink, and our own Stephanie Carter, who climbed over a mountain of problems to get the program to PBS in time for air, we did it. But as I said, this was a way-station. The four-hour version is still scheduled for Spring, and it is yet to be finished.

Promo for the Ascent of Money:


  • Bill_RTI

    Mr. Grant,

    I have been involved in Research and Development of a Futures Trading System that is based on many of the issues presented in ‘The Ascent of Money’. It is extremely refreshing to see Niall Ferguson present these issues in such a comprehensive documentary.

    During the ( totally predictable ) collapse of the ‘Credit Derivative Market’, I was astounded to see how widespread the impact would become ( you have covered this quite well ).

    I Humbly Submit the highest vote of approval and confidence in the central focus of the documentary. It was also great to hear ‘Soros’ and ‘Volker’ supporting your Theses. Although the people in the Institutions, Funds and Rating Agencies refused to acknowledge these issues during the heydays, it is surprising to see how many are willing to give comment now.

    Your connections between the ‘BUSH Administration’ and ‘ENRON’ were a bold move and I RESPECT THE COURAGE it may have taken to include such a DIRECT ALLEGATION.

    But Know this, THERE IS MORE !!

    There are prize winning exposes with this focus, just waiting to be your second or third projects.

    As ‘Deep Throat’ said, “Follow the Money”. What would have been the motivation to start the stampede that you alluded to? Look and you will find a Direct Causal Effect. Non of this was a mistake ( although possibly Dimwitted ). Unfortunately it has had a negative global impact, lots of interested consumers.

    Once again I humbly applaud your work and look forward to following your future projects.

    Bill_RTI

  • Sam Garmond