After some fiddling with language, station leaders Feb. 23  endorsed a new mission statement describing public TV as a "unifying force in American culture."
Several participants celebrated the agreement at the PBS Annual Members Meeting as a significant demonstration of unity among the network's notoriously divided members. "The beauty of this is that all the stations could sign on to something," commented Ellis Bromberg, g.m. of WMVS/WMVT in Milwaukee.
During the debate, station leaders agreed that the proposed "Vision" paragraph at the end of the mission statement had grown too wordy and needed to be simplified. PBS Board Chairman Alberto Ibarguen advised executives to vote on the concepts articulated in the statement rather than editing through a parliamentary process.
But station reps took at least the next half hour to strike 50 words from the statement and approve it. They took separate votes over where to insert the phrase "community-based," eventually choosing "community-based programming and services."
Words in purple below were deleted; words in green were added.
Digital public television, through its community-based programming and services, will be the media home for the civic and cultural life of America. With its deep roots in, and ongoing engagement with local communities, digital public television will earn its place at the center of American life by being the community-based solution to the limitations of market-based media. Its programming and services will be a unifying force in American culture, a lens through which we can understand our diverse nation and the world.
After editing, the Vision paragraph reads:
Public television, through its community-based programming and services, will be a unifying force in American culture, a lens through which we can understand our diverse nation and the world.
The final and complete text is posted on this site.
Advocates said the statement will be refined over time. "This is a living document," said Deborah Onslow, president of WMHT in Albany/Schenectady, N.Y., during the debate. "If we give into the temptation of being total geniuses, we will be here until tomorrow," she warned. The station reps adopted the amended statement by unanimous voice vote.
The PBS Board will review the statement at its meeting later this month, Onslow said. "We hope they will agree to build it into their strategic planning."
As chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association, Onslow worked with representatives of public TV's other affinity organizations to draft the statement and garner support for it within the field [see earlier article below]. Leaders of the affinity groups hope to use it in systemwide strategic planning talks, but they recognize the need for an outside facilitator to "help push us forward" on a plan that specifies strategic priorities and goals, she said.
"From that mission and vision statement will come some of the hard action," said Bromberg, whose station is a member of the Major Market Group. For small and large stations to "drill down deeper" and agree on strategic priorities will be "a little more fractious."