Public ranks pubcasting high in value per dollar

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In a Roper Poll taken March 18-25, Americans ranked public TV and public radio among the services that provide the best value for the tax dollar.

Only military defense of the country and the police had higher percentages of the sample calling them an “excellent value” or a “good value.” Highways, public schools, environmental protection and the court system ranked lower.

The pollsters asked: “Here is a list of some different services that the government provides using tax dollars it collects from the public. Thinking of what you get for what you pay in taxes, would you read down that list and for each one tell me whether you feel you get excellent value for the dollar, or good value, or only fair value for the dollar, or poor value for the dollar?”

These were the results:

Rank Services provided with tax dollars Percent excellent or good value
1 Military defense of the country 60
2 Police and law enforcement agencies 59
3 Public TV broadcasting 57
4 Public radio broadcasting 53
5 Medical, technological,d other research 52
6 Overseeing the safety of food products 50
7 The space program 49
8 Overseeing safety of prescription drugs 49
9 Highways, roads and bridges 45
10 Public schools 41
11 Environmental protection 41
12 Public transportation 40
13 Sponsorship of the arts 39
14 Overseeing soundness of financial institutions 35
15 The courts 33
16 International intelligence gathering 31
17 Contributions to the United Nations 30
18 Social welfare programs 28


“Quite frankly, I was really surprised,” said CPB researcher Janice Jones. “I knew that people value public television, but there are a lot of core services on that list.”

CPB received the poll results as a regular subscriber to the Roper Poll last month, but the survey firm had added pubcasting to the annual question without CPB asking it to do so, Jones said.

Other tax-supported services had been rated in the poll for many years. The biggest changes between 1986 and 1995 showed environmental protection up 14 points, public transportation up 12, roads and bridges up 11, the police up 9 and military defense up 8 points. Even social welfare programs rose 4 points during that period.

In the poll, public TV was scored an “excellent value” by 13 percent, “good” by 44 percent, “fair” by 24 percent and “poor” by just 10 percent. Eight percent said “don’t know.”

Public radio got similar scores: “excellent value,” 10 percent; “good,” 43 percent; “fair,” 28 percent; “poor,” 10 percent, and “don’t know,” 10 percent.

Public TV’s “excellent value” rating (13 percent) was exceeded only by military defense (17 percent) and the space program (14 percent).

The percentage of respondents who rated public TV and radio as a “poor value” for the tax dollar, 10 percent, was lower than all other services except defense and international intelligence gathering.

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