PBSe face for taking one of my Oreo cookies. Why is this relevant? Well now that I’m older, I look back at the time we were both growing up and realize that we fought a lot. The only thing it seemed we both agreed on was what was on TV. We loved Sesame Street. No matter what we were doing, when that song came on we immediately nestled down in front of the TV. Now I can’t speak for my sister or any other child that watched the show, but I was hooked. Every night I would take a bath and play with my Sesame Street toys, and then dry off and put on my Sesame Street underwear. I even had Big Bird show up at my birthday party one year. For the majority of the party, I couldn’t believe that Big Bird was actually there, until I realized that Big Bird was wearing a pair of shoes that looked very similar to the one’s I saw my father wearing earlier that morning. Now I look back at the impact Sesame Street and other children’s shows made on me. Although I didn’t realize it back then, it made me a better person. These shows taught me how to be creative, how to be respectful towards others, and most importantly how to share with others. I just wished I had learned the latter before the Oreo cookie incident.
The Public Broadcasting Service was founded in 1969. Its mission was to provide programming and services of the highest quality as well as the imaginative use of technology to advance education, culture and citizenship. PBS also provides an alternative to commercial stations. Today PBS provides programming and services to 350 non-commercial stations serving all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Since it is a non commercial, PBS relies on financial support from underwriting, pledges from its viewers ,and the Federal Government. Now government is looking into cutting all of its funding towards PBS. Faced with this dilemma, PBS is trying to figure out what they can do to get the funding needed to provide the public with the quality programming it has provided for the past 30 years.
One option is to begin running commercials. This is the one thing that made PBS stand out from all the other stations. When you sit down to watch something on PBS, you don’t have worry about your favorite program constantly being interrupted by some advertisements from huge corporations looking to make some more money. Well this treat might soon be something of the past. PBS affiliates in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are already running 30 second corporate spots. These affiliates have also reported no drop in viewership or membership as a result of these corporate spots. PBS is considering this as another form of annual revenue since government is deciding whether or not to cut its funding. This is an important decision since 12% of PBS’ annual funding comes from the government.
One might ask why government is even considering such a move. I mean PBS and shows such as Sesame Street and the Electric Company have been a staple in society for over 30 years. Well one reason is that the emergence of cable has provided the American public with shows that at one time could only be found on PBS. I don’t mean that you could find Sesame Street on any channel, but there are numerous television stations today such as Fox Kids or Disney that are solely dedicated to proving educational entertainment for kids. Documentaries that at one time could only be found on PBS can now be found throughout cable on A;E and the History Channel. With the emergence of cable, government feels that PBS’ audience has declined drastically over the past couple of years and there no longer is a need for it.
Most people agree with the fact that anything you watch on PBS can probably be found on some other station. So why keep funding it? Well for one reason, there is no children’s show on right now or will ever be that has a greater impact on a child than Sesame Street. Don’t get me wrong there are other shows out there that teach and entertain children, but no other show does as much research and planning for the benefit of providing children with the most educational programming than that of Sesame Street. One should only have to look at their 70 emmy awards in the shows 30 year history to validate that argument. PBS, unlike network stations, provide directors the time needed to produce a documentary. There isn’t the burden of having to please network executives or advertisers. This allows a director to fully research a topic and produce something that tells a story to the fullest. Network stations usually will leave out certain things in a movie or documentary in order to please advertisers or fulfill time restrictions. As a fan of documentaries, I want to know that what I am learning about something is complete, and I’m not being deprived of certain information that’s vital to a particular topic.
PBS has got an uncertain future. Each year Congress votes on whether or not to fund it. Most of them are just tired of having to deal with it and possibly soon will decide that it’s going to cut all funding towards PBS. If that happens will the public step up and contribute more to make up for this loss in funding? Or after 30 years of quality non-commercial broadcasting, will we be sitting down watching Sesame Street and hear that dreadful phrase “We’ll be right back after these commercial messages”. That day might be just right around the corner.