With the warning that public television must “reinvent itself” if it is to “meet the needs of the American public in the 21st century,” a task force appointed by the Twentieth Century Fund recommended fundamental restructuring of the existing public television system in a report issued [in July 1993]. [Task force members included former PBS President Lawrence Grossman; Ervin Duggan, soon to be appointed to head PBS later in 1993; and other prominent national-level figures in media and finance.]
Completing what task force members characterized as a reexamination of the basic purpose and principles of public broadcasting on the 25th anniversary of the field’s creation, the 21-member group envisioned a significant role for public television in the multichannel environment of the future — one that calls for an expansion of educational programming, strengthening of its mission at all levels, and a redirection of federal funds toward diversified national programming. Most controversial among the panel’s recommendations is a proposal to cut off federal funding to local stations within three years and aggregate those dollars for national programs.
“A feeling of ‘entitlement” is rampant within the system,” wrote Richard Somerset-Ward. “There are 351 local stations to be accommodated, and they (or their 175 licensees who receive [grants] from the CPB each year) effectively hold most of the purse strings.” That would mean the end of the Community Service Grants (CSGs) to public TV stations, which consumed half of CPB’s federal appropriation in 1992 and amount to 13.5 percent of the public TV system’s total income, according to the report.