October 5, 1970: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) launches. PBS replaced National Education Television (NET). PBS is an American non-profit public broadcasting service. They were founded in 1969. Today there are 168 noncommercial educational licensees who operate 356 noncommercial stations. Eighty-seven licensees are community organizations. Another 56 are college/universities, twenty are state authorities, and the last five are local. Stations are located in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. Most of the programming is provided by the National Programming Service.
Their program policies were adopted in 1971/72 and were amended in 1987 and again in 2005. Changes in technology have created a need for continual monitoring and updating although their original premise remains valid. PBS programming is backed by their reputation for editorial integrity. They maintain standards for content as well as distribution without bending to improper influences from funders or other sources. They insist on high quality programming and believe in diversity. Local station autonomy ensures programming reflects the needs of the community.
PBS maintains editorial standards while understanding the difference between straight news reporting and documentaries or dramatic presentations. Regardless of the type of program, they strive towards fairness, accuracy, objectivity, balance, responsiveness to the public, courage and controversy, substance over techniques, experimentation and innovation, and exploration of significant subjects. Each of these topics is addressed in their Standards and Policies document. They also address unprofessional conduct, unacceptable production practices, and objectionable materials, further assuring quality programming.
PBS Kids launched in 1998 and dissolved in 2005, but they remain as a programming block. It was aimed at children aged three to six and provided non-commercial viewing. PBS has had spectacular success with some of its children’s shows. Sesame Street, Barney, Bill Nye, and Mr. Rogers all broadcast from PBS. Primetime programs geared towards adults include Masterpiece Theatre, Nova, and American Experience. Their Public Affairs branch offers the shows: Frontline, NOW on PBS, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Nightly Business Report.
“Today it has been estimated that the average 70 year old has four chronic conditions and consumes an average of 35 PBS scripts per year for those conditions.” – Julie Bishop
“Don’t count out other amazing programming like Frontline. You will still find more hours of in-depth news programming, investigative journalism and analysis on PBS than on any other outlet.” – Gwen Ifill
“Friends are like television. Some are like PBS and always asking for money. Others are like the news, with sad tales to tell everyday, some are like that one station with the foreign language; you don’t understand a word of it but you listen and watch.” – unknown
“Those worship songs on the Christmas project will air on PBS television.” – John Tesh
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: There have been two areas of criticism or controversy over the years. Since most of the funding comes from private member donations and grants, the network or stations run fundraising campaigns. These will disrupt normal broadcasting schedules and often include shows not usually seen on the network. This tends to cause some disruption amongst the loyal patrons. During the drives or telethons, commercials from business donors are aired and this increases the displeasure. There have been three different accusations of political or ideological bias against the network. In 1982, their show Let Poland be Poland was seen as biased. There have been some individual shows that have been seen as biased and targeted by groups and organizations. In 2005 there were many news anchors coming and going as friction over political pressures waxed and waned.