Public Broadcasting – A Valuable, Effective Investment in America’s Future

October 22, 2012 Wisconsin Public Television Leave a Comment

A message from Friends of Wisconsin Public Television President John McHugh and Wisconsin Public Radio Association President Anne Katz.

John McHugh President, Friends of Wisconsin Public Television

John McHugh, Friends of Wisconsin Public Television President

We are supporters and fans of public radio and public television.  We are parents, we are business leaders, we are proud Wisconsinites – and we are proud to serve as the chairs of the Wisconsin Public Radio Association and the Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.  In all of these important roles, we will vigorously oppose any plans to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or public media in this country.

With all the debate in recent weeks about the modest amount of federal funding going to public broadcasting, we’re heartened to see that there is no debate about the quality and importance of public radio and public television.  Americans, regardless of their political affiliations and their values, overwhelmingly support the continued funding of public media in our country.

The $1.35 per American annual commitment to public media has huge, measurable returns, and represents one of the most successful public-private partnerships in our nation’s history.  For every $1 of federal support, PBS and NPR stations (all locally owned and operated) raise $6 – and here in Wisconsin the support is just as powerful.

Because any discussion over an investment has to include measures of return, let’s take a look at the impact of public media in the US:  Public broadcasting serves more than 98% of Americans – more than 170 million people each month, including our most rural areas; the total consumption of public radio programming in America is greater than the circulation of the top 64 newspapers combined; for the 9th consecutive year PBS has been rated as the most trustworthy among nationally-known organizations; Americans surveyed continually cite the investment in public broadcasting as the most important investment we make outside of defense.  In a survey conducted by a bi-partisan research team, 69% of voters opposed eliminating federal funding with voters across the political spectrum against such a cut, including 83% of Democrats, 69% of Independents and 56% of Republicans; More than two-thirds (68%) of voters said that Congressional budget cutters should “find others places in the budget to save money.”

Look at what your $1.35 per citizen buys each year:

  • A national public service media infrastructure that makes extraordinary contributions to education, public safety, job training, arts and culture, and engaged citizenship
  • PBS is the nation’s largest classroom; it is the number one media content source for preschool teachers and is watched by 82% of ALL children ages 2-8
  • Dozens of studies have proven that public broadcasting programming for children helps children build critical skills necessary for school readiness, narrowing the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income kids
  • Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television deliver world-class lecturers, innovators, college professors and guests to our State’s classrooms and living rooms through broadcast and online programs
  • Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television bring perspective and voice to Wisconsinites, including over 7 hours a day of local programming and public call-in shows on Wisconsin Public Radio
  • Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television maintain a robust connection to news of the state, the country and the world
  • Public broadcasting informs, engages, inspires and yes, entertains millions of Americans with barrier-free access to content, ensuring that people have equal access to this important programming regardless of their means or geography

Like many Wisconsinites, we’re in favor of fiscal prudence in tough times.  In fact, over the past two years, America’s public media have seen more than a $50 million reduction in federal funding.  Here in Wisconsin, we have been dealing with the impact of these cuts to our local budgets, and are continuing to fulfill our mission through innovation and dedication – we are doing our part.

Along with our volunteer boards we work hard to raise money for the best public radio and public television stations in the country.  Every day we hear from listeners and viewers who appreciate the result.  But as hard as we might work, the United States’ Government Accountability Office, and an analysis completed by Booz and Company for a report submitted to Congress in 2012 have confirmed that there is simply no replacement for federal funding.

We will keep working to increase new and existing funding here in Wisconsin to assure the sustained quality, reach and impact of our shared precious resource, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.  And we invite you to do the same. Please raise your voice in support of continued federal funding for public broadcasting.  It’s a modest investment that delivers incredible returns – returns that benefit all of us, from the youngest to the oldest.  In the words of Ken Burns in a recent op-ed: “It (PBS) resonates because the American people understand that we have a debt not because of public television; we have a debt to public television.”


John McHugh
President, Friends of Wisconsin Public Television

Anne Katz
President, Wisconsin Public Radio Association

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