Congress will take a critical vote in the next few days on the question of eliminating federal support for public broadcasting. The vote is part of complicated negotiations over the federal budget and the very real need to bring the national debt under control.
Ultimately, questions about the budget really come down to some very basic decisions about priorities. What do we believe in as a country?
At this critical moment, we must think about what it would mean to cut the $1.35 per American per year that sustains public broadcasting here at PBS SoCal and across the nation.
What do we lose if the government cuts funding for local public television and radio stations? PBS and its member stations are America’s largest, most cost-effective classrooms, providing educational content to America’s children, including those who can’t attend preschool. Research shows children gain valuable skills through our programs, including measurable improvement in literacy scores, and children who watched Sesame Street obtain higher grades in English, math, and science. Locally, hundreds of thousands of children and their teachers benefit from PBS SoCal Education’s curriculum-based educational media content delivered daily on TV and online.
For many Americans, PBS is their only opportunity to see a Broadway show, visit a National Park, or have a front row seat at a popular music concert. At a time when funding for music and arts within our schools is being cut, PBS is helping to keep the arts alive today and for generations to come by ensuring that the worlds of music, theater, dance, and art remain available to all. Here in Southern California, we provide many hours of local/arts programming each year.
A national Roper Poll revealed that PBS is seen by the American people as the most unbiased of all media networks, making PBS SoCal one of the last bastions of television journalism we can trust. Our local news and documentaries have won hundreds of awards including Emmys, Golden Mike Awards, etc.
Most importantly, the American people believe in federal funding for public broadcasting: Polls show that Americans rank PBS second only to military defense as an excellent use of their tax dollars.
America rightly prides itself as the land of opportunity. Our economy depends on a well-educated and an accurately informed citizenry. Only public broadcasting is meeting that need via TV and radio today while also providing a rare, civilizing media influence in the homes of Americans everywhere—all of it for just over one dollar per year for each taxpayer.
Mel Rogers is the president and chief executive officer of PBS SoCal.