The Death of PBS

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One of the cornerstones of every political campaign is education, and rightly so. When the U.S.’ world rankings in education are sitting at #17 in Reading, #24 in Science, and #27 in Math, and with countries like France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Finland leading us in all three categories, there must be something that is going wrong with the American education system.

U.S. Global Ed. Rankings- AARP

But, how does the government manage to close the educational achievement gap, efficiently and effectively? According to the House Budget Committee,

“Among its core responsibilities, the federal government is tasked with providing for the common defense, securing American borders, protecting innocent life, upholding laws and constitutional rights, ensuring domestic tranquility, and promoting equal opportunity for all Americans.”

Speaker Ryan pitches FY’17 Budget

Government spending at the federal level should go to help all. By focusing only on spending that only benefits the elite, we forget to fund programs that help Americans as a whole, such as:

  • Single-Payer Healthcare
  • Veteran Benefits
  • And, Improving Schools and Education

After all, the House Budget Committee pointed out, for themselves, that some of the primary priorities of federal budgeting include, “protecting innocent life” and “promoting equal opportunity for all Americans.” That is where public media comes in.

Public media started to become what it is today with the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which,

“established a vision for media that would be used for “instructional, educational, and cultural purposes,’ and encouraged “the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.”

Now, 99% of Americans receive public television. And, not only does public media represent a major source of fact-based news and educational content, but it also strengthens communities and is critical for those in small towns and in rural and underserved areas. From expanding opportunity, beginning with proven children’s educational content to providing essential news and information, as well as ensuring public safety and homeland security through emergency alerts, public media proves time and time again to be a vital investment.

It is for this reason that increasing the U.S.’ rankings among the world in education, protecting innocent life, and promoting equal opportunity for all Americans, will not be accomplished by simply defunding and eliminating the CPB and PBS, whose strong on-air reach, and whose high value and trust among the American people, has been helping to close the achievement gap since 1967.

But, what exactly is the CPB? The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or CPB, is the steward of the federal government’s investment into public broadcasting. It supports nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. It operates on a budget of a mere $445 million, where 70% of which goes straight to local stations and only 5% goes to the CPB’s operating expenses. That breaks down to public media costing only $1.35 per citizen per year.

What that $1.35 goes to is funding the CPB’s station grantees. There are 408 station grantees that represent 1,136 radio stations, and 167 grantees that represent 362 TV stations. What is very worth noting about that is that 248 of those 575 grantees are in rural, underserved areas of the country, that may not have access to educational media otherwise.

Through their efforts, like providing financial support to the Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations which is a station-led effort to renew core principles of editorial integrity amid evolving roles and expectations, new technology and platforms, and shifting notions of accountability and transparency, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting aims to accomplish its mission of ensuring universal access to non-commercial, high quality content, and telecommunication services. One of the major ways it accomplishes that mission is through PBS.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American public broadcaster and television program distributor, funded by member station dues, the CPB, government agencies, corporations, foundations, and individual citizens. It has distributed many series such as Keeping Up Appearances, BBC World New, NOVA, Dragon Tales, PBS NewsHour, Walking with Dinosaurs, Masterpiece, Frontline, and Antiques Roadshow.

PBS has more than 350 member television stations and also operates the WARN, or Warning, Alert, and Response Network system, which provides an alternative path for alerts to wireless carriers.

But, what has made PBS such a prominent figure in American households is its strong on-air reach, its high value and trust among the American people, and their efforts to help to close the knowledge fulfillment gap.

PBS’ strong on-air reach is evident through the fact that 82% of U.S. TV households, or over 200 million people, watch PBS. It reaches more kids age 2″ 5, moms with young children, and children from low-income families than any other kids TV network. And, while 68% of kids age 2″ 8 watch PBS, over 95 million people watch PBS each month.

Its primetime household rating is 1.43, which ranks it as the #6 most watched broadcast and cable network. Not only that, but it has a significantly larger primetime audience than many commercial channels, including:

  • HGTV (PBS is 36% larger)
  • Discovery Channel (53% larger)
  • Bravo (123%)
  • TLC (138%)
  • A&E (PBS is 156% larger)

PBS is not just prominent on the TV screen, but online as well. Streaming on accounts for 40% of all time spent watching kids videos online each month. 360 million videos are watched from mobile and online devices each month, with the PBS apps being downloaded 42 million times and their websites having 31.3 millionunique visitors in November 2016 alone. PBS’s strong on-air reach is what paved the way for it to become highly valued and trusted by the American people.

Since the mid-2000’s, and for the 14th consecutive year, PBS was rated the single most-trusted national institution in the U.S. by Roper Polls. At 42%, that put it well ahead of Commercial Cable TV (24%), Courts of Law (22%), and Commercial Broadcast TV (20%), among others.

Parents report that television is one of the top ways they spend time together as a family, with PBS Kids being considered “the best use of families’ screen time.” That is most likely due to the fact that 76% of people say they trust PBS and parents”Š” “Šespecially those in low-income homes”Š” “Šrank PBS kids as the most trusted and safe place for children to watch TV.

PBS also satisfies other needs, such as how 74% of parents want high quality educational content available to their children anywhere, anytime, or how teachers are always in search of the best way to supplement their curriculum. That is a couple of the ways how PBS starts to play into helping address instructional gaps.

It is because of PBS’ great strides to help in closing the achievement gap that PBSKids is considered the #1 children’s educational media brand. PBSKids outperformed Disney, Disney Jr., Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr. in direct comparisons regarding a range of key areas, helping prepare children for success in school, including modeling positive social and emotional behaviors in children, innovation and more. To top that off, 81% of parents said that PBSKids helped their children, beating the next closest network by 11%. Also, a recent study showed that PBSKids resources can help close the math achievement gap for children from low-income families and better prepare them for Kindergarten.

PBS also employs PBSLearningMedia in its efforts to help close the achievement gap. PBSLearningMedia allows teachers to access more than 100,000 curriculum aligned digital resources from over 205 trusted media partners. Since inception, there are. now over 1.8 million educators and users who have registered for access to PBSLearningMedia. Studies have shown that when PBS resources were integrated into existing curriculums, on average, students outperformed national assessment norms by 10 percentage points, yet again proving PBS’ ability to impact the educational accomplishment gap.

This brings us back to the U.S.’ world rankings in education and responsible spending. Why does public broadcasting need federal funding? Federal funds, distributed through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants to local stations, provide critical seed money and basic operating support. Stations leverage each $1 of federal funding to raise over $6 from other sources”Š” “Šincluding state and local governments, philanthropic foundations, private businesses, and universities”Š” “Ša tremendous return on the taxpayer investment. As the President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has stated,

“The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions”Š” for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”

If you want to see the U.S. as #17 in Reading, #24 in Science, and #27 in Math, or worse, fine. But, if you want to see the U.S. as #1 in world education rankings, defunding and eliminating the CPB and PBS is not the way to do it.

Now, what if the current administration and Congress, who says that responsible federal spending “protects innocent life and promotes equal opportunity for all Americans,” choose to move forward with eliminating public media? What can you do about it?

For an average donation of $27 (I’m not kidding you, I did the math) you can help fund public media for 8 families, or 20 children, for an entire year!

But how do you donate?

Click here to find a list of possible donation methods and more information about them.

The fight to preserve public media starts with you. Now.

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