Danny Tyree’s recent rallying cry of “Conservatives, Let’s Save PBS!” was spot on. His column recognized that public broadcasting serves all Americans, regardless of their political persuasion. Indeed, PBS traces its roots to wealthy American industrialist Andrew Carnegie — who insisted on “excellence” as his core conservative value.
It was the steel-baron-turned-philanthropist who made it possible for the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television to study and recommend guidelines for what has become our Public Broadcasting System today.
Even so, there are those who have called to cut funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and would have PBS move to a commercial TV business model in the belief that the marketplace would support its educational enterprise. This is a bad idea.
Forced to take commercials, Sesame Street would become just another toy marketer, like every children’s program on commercial television. Discovery Channel, which had intended to run PBS-style documentaries 24/7, quickly switched to shows like Ice Road Truckers thanks to commercial pressure. And as another high-profile conservative, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently noted, “There is no history on the History Channel.”
PBS is a highly successful public-private partnership that generates $5 in non-federal funding for every $1 of federal investment. No more respected a conservative than President Ronald Reagan blessed this public-private partnership model of public broadcasting in a conversation with filmmaker Ken Burns about his masterpiece, The Civil War. “Government should provide the spark,” President Reagan said, “and the private sector should do the rest.”
At Arizona PBS, the private sector known as “viewers like you” provide approximately 70 percent of the annual operating budget. Other private funders, such as local corporate sponsors and foundations, give another 15 percent. The remaining 15 percent comes from the annual Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant — bringing some of our federal tax dollars back to Arizona to serve Arizonans.
But Eight provides our community with much more than TV. What many Arizonans aren’t aware of is the breadth of its community involvement. An average of 250,000 Arizona children watch Eight’s high-quality educational programming each day. Based on that programming, we offer more than 20,000 classroom-ready digital resources to Arizona teachers. To date, one-in-10 Arizona educators take advantage of these tools, with more teachers signing up daily. Arizona teachers also have participated in over 330,000 hours of their own online learning through PBS TeacherLine. Visit azpbs.org/asset to find out more.
Additionally, you will find Eight’s Educational Outreach team out and about in the community. Our early literacy workshops work with preschoolers, their families, caregivers and educators to prepare these children to be ready the first day of school. Arizona PBS offers STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational programs for K-12 students. In fact, last year our educational presentations, conferences and workshops reached over 13,000 educators and early childhood care providers throughout Arizona.
Another priority of Eight is partnering with local groups and nonprofits so we can provide more services to our viewers. In 2011, for example, Eight co-hosted 11 community events with partners ranging from TedX to Arizona Highways and the Arizona Science Center.
If you really want to see all that Eight offers Arizonans, visit our website at azpbs.org. Then take a few minutes to surf the free resources and programs available with just a few clicks.
It’s a public-private partnership that works on many levels. I think Arizonans across the political spectrum would agree, no matter what their politics, Eight provides tremendous value to everyone throughout Arizona.
Mindy Korth is chairwoman of the community advisory board for Eight, Arizona PBS.