By Mary Kate Cary |
Should public funding for PBS be cut? It has already been cut, by 13 percent over the past two years. If everything in the federal budget had been cut by a similar percentage, the budget would now be $500 billion lower.
It's hard to fathom the relationship between a $3.9 trillion federal budget and a $445 million investment in public broadcasting. To put this issue in a more useful context, if the federal budget were $1 million, public broadcasting would be about a penny—one hundredth of one percent.
And what does that modest investment buy? It buys a public service media infrastructure that makes extraordinary contributions to education, public safety, job training, arts and culture, and engaged citizenship throughout the country. Public media provide the platform on which Sesame Street and other noncommercial programs offer preschool literacy and math learning for millions of kids, especially in low-income families. We bring world-class professors to the most remote schools in the country through "virtual high schools" we operate across the United States. We run the most comprehensive GED program for hundreds of thousands of people whose high school education was interrupted prior to completion.
And now through PBS LearningMedia, we are helping to revolutionize the teaching and learning experience in K-12 classrooms nationwide, developing nearly 20,000 interactive, standards-based, curriculum-aligned digital learning objects created from the best of public television programming, as well as top-quality content from the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and other federal agencies.
Public television spectrum provides the backbone for emergency alert, public safety, and homeland security services in many States. We're the "C-SPAN" of many state governments.
And as locally owned and operated media, we're at the center of hundreds of community partnerships addressing job training, service to veterans and military families, and much more.
All this, and the works of Ken Burns, Great Performances, and more, for $1.35 per person per year. In Japan, the equivalent investment is $63 a year. In Great Britain, $84. We are America's largest classroom, its greatest stage, the preserver of the national memory, and the champion of good citizenship. We serve 170 million Americans every month on the air, in the classroom, and in the community.
No wonder nearly 70 percent of Americans across the political spectrum—including nearly half of self-identified Tea Party advocates—support continued federal funding of public service media and consider it the second best investment of federal funds, after national defense alone. In a government by the consent of the governed, that ought to count for something.
About Patrick Butler President and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations
Michael R. Strain Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Elisabeth Jacobs Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Mattie Duppler Director of Budget and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Refor