WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a conservative who once opposed but ultimately came to support government funding of public broadcasting, is the recipient of this year’s Champion of Public Broadcasting Award from the Association of Public Television Stations.
Pence put pubcasting funding in his first state budget in 2013, the first time an Indiana governor had done so in eight years.
APTS presented the honor to the governor Sunday at its Public Media Summit, underway here through Tuesday. The award recognizes leaders who help local public television stations provide educational, public safety and civic engagement services to communities.
APTS President Patrick Butler has often held up Pence’s turnaround on pubcasting funding as an example of the effectiveness of communicating with elected officials. “People get there,” said Kate Riley, APTS director of government relations, during Sunday morning’s APTS Board meeting. “If Mike Pence can do it, anybody can do it.”
In presenting the award, Butler characterized Pence, sworn into office in January 2013, as a “highly respected conservative who jealously guards taxpayers’ interests, believes deeply in limited government, values the public service mission of public television, and has recommended an investment of state funds in support of that mission in Indiana.”
In his acceptance speech, Pence pledged his continued support for Indiana public broadcasting. “The Hoosier state has now and will continue to find the resources to support public media efforts in our state,” he said.
From 2001-13, Pence served as a U.S. Representative for Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District. In 2005 he led a committee of House Republicans in a proposal to eliminate funding for CPB in order to help pay for Hurricane Katrina recovery funds. But since his appointment as governor, he has reinstated a portion of state funding for pubcasters, which had been reduced by nearly $2 million from 2008-12.
Pence, who has made early-childhood education a priority of his administration, praised in particular pubTV’s role in early-childhood learning. “Public television plays a vital role in educating all of the public, but most especially our children,” he said Sunday. “And I believe every child deserves to start school ready to learn.”
Pence also expressed his admiration for pubTV’s work in engaging viewers with American history, particularly via programs such as Ken Burns’s The Civil War. “You seem to be one of the places that most authentically tells the American story to the American people,” he said.