In 1969, PBS was granted a mere $5 million to fill the public interest programming gap left open by three commercial networks. 40 years later, three networks have given way to hundreds of channels, and the public interest gap has become an abyss. PBS’ mission has never been more vital, or more daunting, but it was not built to compete in today’s ruling regime of cable, if it was ever built to compete at all. After four decades, PBS remains the same underfunded patchwork of affiliates forced to plead for its appropriation and viewer support each year. Its programming attracts a narrow, aging audience and is at a loss to cultivate new generations of viewers. Lamentably, its relevance, its viability, and even its very existence, are increasingly called into question.
However, for those who believe in PBS’ necessity, and for those who toil in its service, there is no shortage of hope for its future or solutions to its problems. FIX PBS seeks to shine a light on bright ideas that rethink PBS’ fiscal, broadcast, and management models. Many of the brightest ideas are not new at all. Some have been around since Fred Friendly and PBS’ philanthropic founders first conceived of a “non-commercial” network for America. Others have proven their success in other countries for years. All continue to inform a decades-old movement to save PBS from its own unsustainable status quo, and renew its promise for generations to come. FIX PBS is here to help this movement find the information and support it needs to succeed at long last.
Imagine the possibilities! What if PBS could fix its funding problems once and for all? What if it could afford to add new PBS channels to the dial to expand its schedule and its audience? What if PBS could boast a worldwide news network to rival the BBC? What if it could do all this without hosting pledge drives or fearing the government budget axe? These are among the many questions that FIX PBS hopes to answer in a growing conversation about PBS’ future, and new frontiers in public media.
THE FIX PBS MISSION
- Deliver news about PBS, and public media around the globe.
- Interview policymakers, broadcasters, producers, journalists, authors, academics, and foundation leaders about critical issues affecting PBS.
- Highlight lessons to be gleaned from public media outlets in other countries.
- Host a dialogue about PBS’ future, including public commentaries and polls.
- Report on symposia and events focused on public media issues.
- Examine alternative funding systems for PBS, including a federal trust fund, license fee systems, market-based subscription fees, commercial advertising (with a public service remit in force), among others.
- Explore possible strategies for PBS to add a new digital channel(s) to expand its schedule and its audience.
- Consider the potential to build PBS a local, national, and international news network to rival the BBC and other leading global public broadcasters.
- Address questions of PBS’ infrastructure and management in hopes of developing a more effective working model.
- Illuminate the political and practical obstacles that stand in the way of real change for PBS, and find ways to overcome them.