What makes public broadcasting ‘public’ is engagement

The authors head the Public Media ThinkTank at American University in Washington, D.C.  With backing from the Ford Foundation they're working to distill the means and motives of a broader realm of public media, including public broadcasting. This is one of their first efforts. Public engagement is the semisecret success story of public broadcasting, and it shouldn’t be. The many community partnerships that flourished with public TV’s June broadcast of the special on caregiving for seniors, And Thou Shalt Honor, and the amazing insights that Story Corps brings to public radio shouldn’t be heartwarming, exceptional stories. They should be the norm. Continue Reading

A moral transaction

Moyers' essay appeared in the Washington Post June 21, 2005, after he retired from hosting PBS's weekly public affairs program Now. I must be the luckiest man in television for having been a part of the public broadcasting community for over half my life. I was present at the creation. As a 30-year-old White House policy assistant in 1964, I attended the first meeting at the Office of Education to discuss the potential of “educational television,” which in turn led to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. When I left the White House that year to become publisher of Newsday, I did fundraising chores for Channel Thirteen in New York and appeared on its local newscasts. Continue Reading

‘Public trust is the rating that matters most to PBS’

Pat Mitchell, then president of PBS, delivered this talk May 24, 2005, at the National Press Club, in the midst of escalating news coverage of the conflict between public TV and Kenneth Tomlinson, then chair of CPB. Mitchell was preparing to announce recommendations for public TV's future, but the Digital Futures Initiative report was delayed until December 2005, after Tomlinson had quit CPB and the dust was clearing. Since becoming president of PBS, I've often been at podiums like this one, with audiences like this one, although perhaps not as well informed or well prepared as a National Press Club gathering or one with so many familiar faces, those of friends and colleagues in public broadcasting. I appreciate the presence of national and local leaders of this great institution of which we are the current caretakers, and along with them, I am grateful to have this opportunity to make the case for the value and relevancy, and in fact, essential need for a vital and viable public broadcasting service in a democracy. Leading PBS at any time comes with bragging rights to be sure. Continue Reading

Hundt: System needs openness of 4 kinds

Attorney and former FCC chairman Reed Hundt , a co-chair of the PBS-appointed Digital Future Initiative, previewed his thinking in a Current commentary seven months before the panel issued its recommendations at the end of 2005. See also Co-chair James Barksdale's commentary. Jim Barksdale said at the very first meeting of the Digital Future Initiative that one thing that he learned in his different business successes is that the main thing is to make the main thing always be the main thing. I’m going to try to do that today by telling you the main thing on my mind after working for months with our distinguished panel and bringing in lots of other people to talk to us. I’ll tell you straight from the shoulder: I think public broadcasting is in one of those slowly developing, hard-to-spot situations that is, in fact, a real crisis. Continue Reading

Barksdale: Make literacy your mission

Corporate leader and philanthropist James Barksdale, a co-chair of the PBS-appointed Digital Future Initiative, previewed his thinking in a Current commentary seven months before the long-delayed publication of the initiative's recommendations. See also comments by initiative Co-chair Reed Hundt. In a story that has always held meaning for me, Lewis Carroll’s character Alice came to a fork in the road. Which way do I go? she wondered. The Cheshire Cat beamed down from the tree above her and asked, “Little girl, are you lost?”

"Well, I just want to know which way I should go,” she said. Continue Reading

Lehrer expects to feel some heat: ‘What we’re doing is kitchen work’

Jim Lehrer, co-founder and host of PBS's NewsHour, spoke April 12, 2005, at the PBS Showcase meeting in Las Vegas, where he accepted the PBS Be More Award. At one point, he refers to CPB's appointment of a pair of ombudsmen, announced a week earlier. Thank you. It is always a pleasure to be among the professionals who make up my public television family, and have done so for more than 30 years. There are indeed many familiar friendly faces in this room, but few that would have been in a comparable place when I began my life in public television. Continue Reading