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Patricia Deal Cahill: Public broadcasting is indispensable

  • By Patricia Deal Cahill
  • Published Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, at 6:49 a.m.

Thomas Jefferson stated, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.”

Public broadcasting is guided solely by a public service mission – providing quality, trusted national and local news and public affairs programming, civic engagement, and historical, arts and cultural content to every American. As a result, our country’s public broadcasting service is consistently rated among the most trusted and reliable sources of information. And our work in early education is consistently regarded as “most trusted” by parents, caregivers and educators.

This is made possible through a system of public radio and television stations located in communities in every corner of our country. In Wichita, KMUW 89.1-FM and KPTS, Channel 8, are locally licensed and operated, with programming schedules and choices determined locally. They are managed locally and are reflective of the values of the communities they serve.

This is made possible by an essential federal investment in these stations, which ensures their public service mission. It is also the foundation on which the American public broadcasting service is built. Unlike public broadcasting in other countries, which are completely financed by their governments, American public broadcasting is designed to be a public-private partnership, where the federal contribution is built upon to raise about six times that amount from private business, foundations and individual members.

How much is the federal investment for all of public broadcasting services? About $1.35 per person per year.

For about the cost of a cup of coffee, Americans can access their local stations for content such as “Nature,” “Nova,” “American Experience,” “Frontline,” “NewsHour,” “Morning Edition,” “This American Life,” “All Things Considered,” “StoryCorps,” the films of Ken Burns, “Sesame Street,” “Sid the Science Kid,” “The Electric Company,” “Super Why!” and “Arthur,” to name a few examples.

For about the cost of a cup of coffee, public broadcasting contributes to the enlightened citizenry Jefferson deemed indispensable to our republic.

Patricia Deal Cahill of Kansas City, Mo., is chairwoman of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. She was formerly a general manager at KMUW and an instructor at Wichita State University.

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