Public TV stations adopted this statement of mission at the PBS Members Meeting, Feb. 23, 2004. For more information. See also Current’s coverage, published March 8, 2004. Public television is the only universally accessible national resource that uses the power and accessibility of television to educate, enlighten, engage and inform.
In this letter to the first Carnegie Commission, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker magazine essayist (1899-1985) gives one of the most compact and eloquent descriptions of what advocates hoped public television would become. (White’s books included Charlotte’s Web, and he co-authored The Elements of Style, familiar to many English students.)
On stationery of the magazine where he worked for years, White addressed Stephen White, assistant to the Carnegie Commission chair, James R. Killian Jr.
Chapter 1 of the commission’s report begins with an excerpt from the letter shown in color below. The New Yorker
No. 23 West 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
September 26, 1966
I have a grandson now named Steven White, and I’ll bet he can swim faster and stay under longer than you can. As for television, I doubt that I have any ideas or suggestions that would be worth putting on paper. Non-commercial TV should address itself to the ideal of excellence, not the idea of acceptability — which is what keeps commercial TV from climbing the staircase.