In survey after survey the American people consistently have named PBS/NPR as their most trusted and unbiased institutions among nationally known organizations.
They have also ranked the the two media entities the most trusted source for news and public affairs amongst broadcast and cable sources, and the best educational media brand for children ages 2-8.
So why does the Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest, most under-served regions of these United States have such a problem keeping public broadcasting on the air?
About 80 percent of Americans, across all age groups, ethnicity, income and education levels measured, believe funding for PBS/NPR is money “well spent.” Respondents also found public broadcasting an “excellent” use of tax dollars.
There was some good news when PBS was brought back to the Valley. Local CW affiliate, KCWT, Channel 21 (Entravision), has begun broadcasting the PBS National broadcast feed over the air on Channel 21.4. There is no local programming at this time, but kudos to KCWT and Entravision for their vision and civic-mindedness. We should support any efforts they have to get local programming up and running. Unfortunately, we still do not have a local NPR affiliate, although KEDT News of Corpus Christi has publicly expressed an interest in extending its presence to the Valley.
As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to haunt our entire country, there is no better time for local corporate interests, school districts, and governmental bodies to work diligently together to see that quality, unbiased information is made available for the public. We don’t need any more local media that is consumed by car ads and accident attorneys but real journalism driven by quality local educational programming. Why not have a pubic education curriculum for all ages on the local PBS and NPR stations whilst our local schools are shut? Why not disseminate responsible journalism regarding the health of our region without all of the noise?
While there is a significant number of people in the Valley with little or no education, can you think of a better time to have families work together at home to educate their children and to learn about the world around them?
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, enacted by the 90th Congress of the United States, effective November 7, 1967, states: “An Act to amend the Communications Act of 1934 by extending and improving the provisions thereof relating to grants for construction of educational television broadcasting facilities, by authorizing assistance in the construction of non-commercial educational radio broadcasting facilities, by establishing a nonprofit corporation to assist in establishing innovative educational programs, to facilitate educational program availability, and to aid the operation of educational broadcasting facilities; and to authorize a comprehensive study of instructional television and radio; and for other purposes.”
As I read the words of this legislation, I get the feeling that our region has and continues to be cheated and short changed by the federal government.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law on November 7, 1967, he said: “It announces to the world that our nation wants more than just material wealth; our nation wants more than a ‘chicken in every pot.’ We in America have an appetite for excellence, too. While we work every day to produce new goods and to create new wealth, we want most of all to enrich man’s spirit. That is the purpose of this act.”
The law and the spirit of these bold words from a fellow Texan and our 36th President of the United States somehow rings hollow in these times of trial and tribulation for our region and the country.
There is a crisis in American life, not of a virus but of apathy, bias and of self-serving. If we are to remain a nation to truly fulfill the American Dream even for the least of us, then we must have unbiased media for our families that is focused on education not partisanship.
If PBS/NPR is to thrive and live up to the promise of President Johnson’s words, it is time for action now to provide our Valley families with quality news and public affairs programming, an educational curriculum for all local students, and an unbiased outlet free to the public, open to all and in support of our region.
Editor’s Note: The author of this guest column, retired news media executive Ron Rogers, is co-founder of Grassroots Public Radio-RGV, a nonprofit set up to bring NPR back to the Rio Grande Valley.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows the NPR studios in Washington, D.C.
Editor’s Note: PBS is hosting a virtual town hall meeting about the Coronavirus on Thursday, March 19, 2020, at 9 p.m. Central Time. It will air on all PBS stations and be streamed the PBS app and on the PBS NewsHour social channels, including You Tube, Facebook and Twitter. The questions of readers will be answered by people on the frontlines of the crisis.