Noting that Romney likes pubcasting, Kerger is glad for bipartisan support

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PASADENA, Calif. — PBS President Paula Kerger is not fazed by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent comment favoring an end to federal aid to public broadcasting. Nor is she worried by Romney’s call for advertising on Sesame Street.

“I’m glad that he said that he liked public broadcasting,” Kerger said during a Jan. 4 press conference at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. “You know, we have always had bipartisan support.”

The country must make tough decisions about government spending, Kerger said, but federal money costs only $1.35 a year per American.

Broad support for public broadcasting, as shown by research, “should translate into political leverage,” Kerger said. “We will be working with our stations to make sure that our elected officials know of the support that those stations have through the people in their community.”

Any move to run ads with Sesame Street would violate FCC restrictions on noncommercial broadcasters, Kerger said.  

She also reminded critics that cable channels that launched as commercial alternatives to PBS have since ditched their documentaries and performing arts for reality shows. The History Channel “found that the way to survive was to create a very different type of programming,” she said. “Programming like Pawn Stars and American Pickers is not the same as American Experience and Ken Burns.”

As in previous press tours, Kerger noted PBS’s success with content on video platforms. PBS had just announced that PBSKids.org saw more than 11.7 million unique visitors in November, a 20 percent increase over a year ago. The site serves an average of 98 million video streams per month, making it the most-visited free children’s video site on the Web.

“We’ve reached a new and different audience through our digital platforms,” she said. Later, however, one critic reminded her that, despite promises to use social media, Kerger hadn’t personally tweeted since Nov. 11. “I knew I was going to get nailed on that,” she said. “The thing that’s really kind of stupid about it is that I do use social media a lot and I love reading other tweets just for informational purposes — particularly when there’s breaking news.”

Kerger also fielded questions on veteran newsman Bill Moyers, who is returning Jan. 13 to public television — though not through PBS (Current, Aug. 29, 2011) — and Charlie Rose, host of the PBS late-night talk show who begins co-anchoring the CBS This Morning weekday show on Jan. 9.

Kerger said PBS talked to Moyers about distributing his new program on PBS Plus, a service that allows public TV stations to choose and schedule shows, such as Rose’s program, as they see fit. “He (Moyers) made the decision for various business reasons to go through APT (American Public Television) and we will distribute it through our COVE video player, so he’s very much a part of the PBS family.”

As for Rose, “my only concern is that he get enough sleep,” Kerger said. “He has said to me consistently that his most important project is his nightly show on public broadcasting.” — Barry Garron for Current

(Image: PBS/Rahoul Ghose)

Comments, questions, tips? bgarron /at/ yahoo.com

  • Steve

    “Programming like Pawn Stars and American Pickers is not the same as American Experience and Ken Burns.”

    But it is very much like, oh, say, “Antiques Roadshow,” right down to the cha-ching of the cash register at the payoff.

    The fact that History Channel and Discovery Channel have drifted away from PBS-style programming should tell you something: maybe PBS-style programming is largely boring, infinitely repetitive, and downright tedious.

    If it wasn’t for British-imported soap operas such as the incessantly hyped and cross-promoted “Downton Abbey” on “Masterpiece” (and, really, *that’s* a masterpiece??), viewership would be running on empty.

    When Bill Moyers has to go on one of his hiatuses in order to dig up more funding, as he discussed in a recent speech reported in these very pages but Koch Industries-funded nature program eye candy continues on year after year, well, I suspect that tells you all you need to know about PBS programming.