Public Media matters more than ever

I’m just back from Washington and two days of meetings with my PBS colleagues from throughout the country.  We shared ideas about our work to help reduce the high school drop-out rate (American Graduate).  We previewed the new schedule (including the upcoming season of Downton Abbey).  We shared plans for national/local election coverage, and we discussed upcoming specials such as The Abolitionists, a new American Experience film that will have connections to Rochester. 

I also attended a preview screening at “The Newseum” of the upcoming Frontline election special, The Choice, followed by the Presidential Debate on the big screen in the auditorium (an event that included Congressional staffers, federal workers, etc., from both parties).

You can imagine the reaction of the hundreds of people in the theater when one of the candidates went out of his way to attack federal funding for PBS at a debate moderated by Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour.

The comment was disappointing, to say the least. Elimination of federal support would have virtually no impact on the budget deficit (it is only 1/100th of 1 percent of the federal budget, or about $1.35 per capita), but it would severely damage an institution cherished by millions of Americans. Also, almost all the federal support goes directly to local stations, such as WXXI.  Very few dollars go directly to PBS, even less to NPR.

Here in Rochester, thousands of parents – and tens of thousands of our youngest citizens – rely on the nearly 15 hours of non-commercial, non-violent children’s programming we broadcast every weekday. Nearly all these shows have an educational message, helping children be “ready to learn” when they enter school. WXXI partners with local schools and BOCES on programs that are used in the classroom and enhance learning. And, as noted, WXXI is an active partner in the national American Graduate campaign to reduce the high school drop-out rate, a serious problem in the City of Rochester. These are the kinds of programs most at risk if we lose federal support.

No matter how you feel about this and other issues, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to weigh in with your elected officials and those running for office.  Most of all, exercise your right to vote. Stay current on all the issues by staying  tuned to WXXI, where you’ll find debates, election coverage and free airtime for candidates.