As the medium of television grew up, program directors at local U.S. television stations felt a need for a program specific forum to discuss and resolve the challenges faced as a result of the Prime Time Access Rule, which gave responsibility for programming between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. to local stations and program directors. Encouraged by syndicated programming salesmen, 64 program directors (NATPE’s charter members) named Stan Cohen of WDSU New Orleans temporary president and set about organizing a meeting.
The first formal meeting of the National Associates of Television Program Executives was held in May of 1964 at the New York Hilton Hotel and drew 71 registrants. The majority of participants where program directors. During that historical first two-day meeting in New York, the topics of discussion ranged from ‘The Network’s Relationship to Local Programming’ and ‘Where Do You Find Talent?’ to ‘Government’s Influence on Programming’ and ‘Successful Formats for Handling Politicians & Political Issues.’ In spite of the myriad of change the television industry has experienced over the past 40 years, some things still remain the same.
Like the membership it serves, NATPE too has changed dramatically over the past 40 years. NATPE’s membership grew from 64 to 210 by 1970; up to 1,206 in 1980; 1818 in 1990 and to a whopping 3,812 by the new millennium, January 2000. Like its membership, NATPE’s annual conference has also shown incredible growth. Moving from New York to Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta and Las Vegas as it also migrated from May to February, to March, back to February and eventually settled into January. The event added exhibition suites in 1980 and an exhibit floor in 1981. By the early 80s the international television industry was experiencing tremendous growth and looked to NATPE as others had before as a place to share ideas and confront challenges.
As a vital link between the television industry, the academic community and students, the NATPE Educational Foundation, was formed in 1978. Its mission is to reach out to students by providing hands-on opportunities for them and their teachers in order to help prepare them for a future in television. NATPE’s Educational Foundation, underwritten by membership fees and the support of sponsors and special endowments, provides a number of annual fellowship, grants and prizes to the academic community. Lew Klein, one of the founders of NATPE and an early president of the organization, continues his dedication to the association as president of the Educational Foundation.
Today, NATPE continues to redefine itself and the services it provides to the ever-changing global television industry. Encouraging progress, NATPE keeps members apprised of the changes occurring daily in the global media environment. NATPE also remains committed to providing its members with education, networking, professional enhancement and technological guidance by publishing timely directories and offers a full compliment of online services to its membership, in addition to its role as the only American program market serving the worldwide television community.