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.
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.
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.
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.
Ride the school bus on the Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona and you’ll hear Shooting Stars, a program for kids produced mostly by volunteers at KUYI, the three-year-old public radio station on the reservation. Tune in during the day and you’ll hear an update on living with diabetes or asthma. Keep listening and you’ll hear junior- and senior-high school interns reading the news. Stop to chat with someone on the reservation about what they’ve heard on the radio. Everyone knows you’re talking about the same station.
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.
We should not be surprised that most of television enters our people and our body politic, not as food for thought, but as an embalming fluid, a relaxing and displacing system of entertainment for those too exhausted, inert or numb to want more. But our place — your place, my place, the place of public television — is to offer an alternative to that, to serve the actual young and the forever young, the open and curious, those who still want to learn.
Jon might say that his prime legacy is this television station. What Jim Day and Jon Rice created from nothing more than a dream is an enviable monument. He loved KQED without reservation. He loved it with a passion that didn’t waver for 47 years.
Can you remember when you first heard the word “paradigm”? All of sudden everything was “paradigms” — shifting, evolving or disappearing . . . paradigms. Well, “social capital” is in much the same state these days.