By: Spencer Kennedy
For the first time in too long, state funding for public television has increased. The 2008 fiscal year saw the most recent peak in state funds – $277 million budgeted out between 38 states. Partially as a result of the recession, funds decreased over the next four years before reaching a low of $178 million in 2012. From there, the following two years netted overall growth of $13.5 million, leaving the state-funding total at $191.5 million for 2014, provided by 35 participating states.
Television boasts a colorful history in the United States, dating back more than a century. Still, it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that television became a cornerstone of American life. Although it is hard to imagine, the average viewer during the early days only had five to ten channels to choose from. Gathering around the hearth with family and friends was a daily ritual that represented not just a form of bonding, but a way to keep informed about the happenings of the world. Quite unlike today’s trend – Americans spend 5 hours watching TV everyday – television was a treat, a special event that was reserved for a specific time of the day with the whole family present.
Broadcast junkies may blame television – and accurately so – for aiding the termination of the Golden Age of radio, but the rise and fall of developing technologies is inevitable. Television has been engaged in a similar ongoing battle for relevance in light of today’s booming media trends – online streaming, mobile devices, etc. Despite the rapidly changing media landscape, one truth remains: public broadcasting serves a vital role in the production and dissemination of news, commentary, and educational programming.
Most of you reading this might not feel the same way. So many of us are blessed enough to have cutting-edge technology and unhindered access to a plethora of media services. However, the fact of the matter is that a large portion of Americans are not as fortunate. For some, AM radio and public programs are a vital source of information – if they can access a radio or television, that is. Indeed, there are others who utilize these services as well. As a kid, I am proud to say that Arthur and Franklin were favorites among me and my siblings; and my youngest sister watches Little Bear to this day. Such programs are not only suitable entertainment for toddlers, but provide an essential educational service for many Americans.
For the reasons above, I am excited to hear that state funding for public television has steadily increased over the past two years. Although it is still nearly $100 million short of that 2008 peak, recent commotion in Washington and state governments is a good sign that attention is being refocused on the vital, democratic tool that is public broadcasting. In the midst of ever-impressive advancements in technology and media structures, it is important to remember the indispensable role of public services.