Press Releases

PBS Statement Regarding October 3 Presidential Debate

Written by PBS | Oct 4, 2012 1:00 PM

We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to set the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.

The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.

A national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint in 2011 in found that over two-thirds of American voters (69%) oppose proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with Americans across the political spectrum against such a cut.

As a stated supporter of education, Governor Romney should be a champion of public broadcasting, yet he is willing to wipe out services that reach the vast majority of Americans, including underserved audiences, such as children who cannot attend preschool and citizens living in rural areas.

For more than 40 years Big Bird has embodied the public broadcasting mission – harnessing the power of media for the good of every citizen, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Our system serves as a universally accessible resource for education, history, science, arts and civil discourse.

Over the course of a year, 91% of all U.S. television households tune into their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81% of all children between the ages of 2-8.

Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public broadcasting broadcasts, apps, podcasts, and online – all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.

Earlier in 2012, a Harris Interactive poll confirmed that Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the 9th consecutive year.

A key thing to remember is that public television and radio stations are locally owned and community focused and they are experts in working efficiently to make limited resources produce results. In fact, for every $1.00 of federal funding invested, they raise an additional $6.00 on their own – a highly effective public-private partnership.

Numerous studies -- including one requested by Congress earlier this year -- have stated categorically that while the federal investment in public broadcasting is relatively modest, the absence of this critical seed money would cripple the system and bring its services to an end.

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  • NotObama2012 img 2012-10-04 18:51

    My husband and I were consistent, generous donors to you AND NPR from 2005-2007. But in 2007 it became clear that both you and NPR were in the TANK for Obama. It was nauseating. We couldn't stand it anymore and felt like you didn't identify with middle of the road Americans any longer at ALL. We will never support you again until you make better efforts to serve all of America...not just LEFT America. Aside from that...yes 1/100th of the budget sounds TINY but I can think of a TON of things I'd rather see our government do with 1.55 BILLION dollars than give it to an obviously slanted and liberal serving machine. It doesn't surprise me to hear my liberal friends say they have "PBS and only PBS on all day long" in their house. Holy crap...kind of...odd to me. Since when do we need 12 hours straight of educational programming anyhow?? When children are in school! An hour in the morning...maybe one in the afternoon when they are back home, that's acceptable. But television was never supposed to be a teacher or a babysitter. No, no...I am afraid you'll have to face the fact that you're trying to replace something you can't replace and in my feeling (at times) brainwash children into certain beliefs and philosophies at times. You're just finally finding out what a lot of people haven't taken the time to tell you... You're welcome on our ledger has been worn out in America.

    • Sean Snyder img 2012-10-05 03:02

      In response to NotObama2012:

      Although I agree with you, PBS shouldn't be spouting out any political message what so ever if it is funded by government. I haven't watched PBS in over a decade since I have been out of the country. I am unfamiliar with the message they send these days, BUT I think it is nobel that you had once supported them, but nonsense that you think it shouldn't be supported any longer. From time to time, I see Foxnews say something to the affect of "Sesame Street is liberally slanted" and they show a clip of a shrewd business man who doesn't care about the little people. If this is the case, are you insinuating that your own political party suites this bill? If so, why would you stand along side them?

      I occasionally tune in to Sesame Street; because I am an English teacher abroad. From what I have gathered, they promote cultural understanding, fairness, basic kindergarten lessons, clean environment as well as other healthy and age appropriate lessons. Never once have I seen anything strongly political. Like I said before, I don't watch PBS outside of Sesame Street. I don't watch every episode. My only point is, it would be harmful for our country to disallow children from watching Sesame Street for free because it has some psuedo political message. Kids aren't going to become brainwashed from a TV show. If that were the case, I'd want to be a ninja, planeteer, alien, turtle, ranger, superhero, CEO, wallabee, kid from New York with a football shaped head, VR Trooper (what ever that means), and a million other things. Yes kids are impressionable, but they also grow up and eventually start to decipher their own ideals and become their own person. TV with hidden messages aren't going to corrupt your child.

      Also, I agree children should watch TV for only a short period of time. But there are also parents who are neglegent or just don't lack the time to be there always. Some kids will grow up sitting in front of a TV, I'd rather them be watching Sesame Street than Disney or Nickelodean. Two corporations that are constantly spewing their own political agenda's. Additionally, childrens TV shows should run at the times they run, not all kids schedules are in sync. Some kids watch TV before they go to school. Some may watch it for a half hour in Day Care, some may watch it just after coming home from school. That is how TV is.... It's not like TV should just stop airing at certain hours because there isn't a group of people to fill a niche.

    • DaveSG img 2012-10-06 18:43

      I'm not taking a side on your comment, but wanted to clarify the math. The article states PBS uses "one one hundredth of a percent," which is 0.01%, not 1.0%.

  • Noni img 2012-10-04 18:56

    Friends at PBS|

    My tax dollars are transformed into magnificent jewels in the able hands of PBS. Mr. Romney is a poor rich blind man.
    His behavior and demeanor were Cesar like. He just forgot he was not Cesar nor that he was in Rome-but to forget is one of specialties.

  • Geoff Miller img 2012-10-04 23:29

    Let us put emotion aside and examine the math involved in the loss of federal funding of PBS. As stated, PBS affiliates raise six dollars for every federal dollar they receive. Thus, federal funding accounts for 1/7th or just over 14% of station budgets. A 14% revenue loss is significant but not insurmountable.

    If federal funding is discontinued, there is no reason PBS should not be able to adapt and thrive, free of political influence. Big Bird alone is a globally-recognized character brand worth millions in the marketplace. I suspect that adapting to such a brave new world will require a new leadership team.

    • JDeavenport img 2012-10-05 13:28

      Two very good points.

      Fundraising in the non-profit sector (and for-profit) sector depends on seed money. Any organization needs that initial investment to get started to build a product/service. Having a strong initial investor allows an organization to leverage more outside support. In regards to this public-private partnership for public broadcasting President Reagan said, “Government should provide the spark, and the private sector should do the rest.” Without a spark, raising the needed funds would be near impossible. More info:

      Also, you're right about Big Bird's copyright and trademark, and public broadcasting can and does use its copyrights/trademarks to raise revenue within allowable limits of its mission and the law. However, because of it's non-commercial nature, public broadcasting is very limited in how it can underwrite its content.

      I think one of the strengths of public media is that with diverse sources of funding; its content can remain independent from advertisers. When watching commercial (and public) television one should ask where does the source of power lie? What interests to these organizations have in reaching the public? Is it in our interest?

      Even though I may not agree with the all the subject matter on PBS, I feel public broadcasting makes its content decisions based on principals that lead to positive human development. Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot and let it go. The dollar or so that comes out of my federal tax payment is worth it. I'd rather watch Nature, NOVA or let young children enjoy Big Bird (like I did as a child) all year long than use the money for a Snicker's bar or a 20 oz Diet Coke. That's just my opinion.

  • Lisa Walker img 2012-10-05 12:06

    In response to Sean Snyder,

    Sean, as you stated: Sesame Street promotes cultural understanding, fairness, basic kindergarten lessons, clean environment as well as other healthy and age appropriate lessons. You do understand that these are concepts that conservatives consider LIBERAL. In a country that has 26 - yes, thats right, 26 creationist museums, and still has states fighting to NOT have to teach evolution, honest education is a threat. For people that consider different races religions, etc "them" vs "us" good people, multi-culturalism is a threat. the fact that the only people the US Republicans have talked about taking on are teachers and PBS says a lot about their viewpoint on the problems of this country.

  • Rob Harris img 2012-10-05 12:45

    Well said. Here's my take on this, if anyone's interested.

  • amalo2205 img 2012-10-06 09:22

    For every penny invested in PBS and NPR, the people of this country—and the world—have got more than a million bucks in return. In fact, and spirit, their work is priceless—if anyone cared to do that complex economic analysis.

    They have been placed in 'death row' by the bully who once violently cut a classmate's hair...because he was 'suspected of been 'gay.' He is now after Big Bird, to kill him...Hands off, bully!

    Robot・ney is a liar who wears many masks to please each and every audience...and a cynic: one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  • Caleb Jenkins img 2012-10-06 23:09

    "$1.35 per person per year." is an interesting number. Personally, I'd have no problem sending PBS $20 a year to help keep the lights on if federal investment ever ended. I'm sure that there are plenty of other viewers that would actually start supporting PBS directly if federal investment ended.

    Back to that $1.35, I'm assuming that is inclusive of all people - including children, and the nearly half of America that doesn't pay taxes? I wonder what the amount per year per tax payer would be? My guess is that would be closer to $13 to $15 per year? Still a bargain.. but is it necessary? PBS is a huge market, as others have pointed out, their ability to raise finances would probably grow if they were no longer a "public entity"