PBS: All The Good Things PBS Has Done For This Country
With Netflix flipping the traditional TV model on its head and traditional network giants like Disney and HBO creating their own streaming services, how we consume "the tube" is rapidly evolving. In just a few short years, most channels will barely resemble their current counterparts. However, there is one channel that will likely remain the same regardless of how everything else changes: PBS.
From its beginnings in 1967, the Public Broadcasting Service has offered an educational and safe place for kids and adults to watch TV together. Today, it still follows that mission statement to a T. Here are some fun facts you might not know about one of the oldest stations around.
Many Helping Hands
Unlike other networks, PBS actually isn't one network. Rather, PBS is a "program distributor and broadcaster." It's more complicated than might seem necessary, but essentially, PBS is made up of over 350 television stations who support the broadcasting service by paying for membership. However, PBS only accepts money without influence. By enforcing a set of standards, they control what they show without being coerced by money.
One Of The Most Watched Stations Around
According to the numbers, a ton of people watch PBS. How many? Every month, almost 100 million people watch at least one PBS program. In 2016, they aired the number-two most-watched program on Super Bowl Sunday. (Naturally, it was Downtown Abbey.)
A Lot Of Firsts
It's no surprise, given the exceptional quality of its programming, that PBS has achieved many firsts in television history. Just a few of those include:
• Airing the first all-female moderated debate in television history.
• Being the only station to air full coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings.
• Inventing closed captioning. In 1972, always looking out for the ignored and underrepresented, PBS created a system to help the deaf and hard of hearing enjoy TV as much as the hearing population.
• Airing the first program made by kids for kids, called Zoom, in 1972. (It was a big year for them.) They encouraged kids from all over the country to send in ideas for the show's performers.
• Creating one of the first reality TV shows. They might not be as proud of this one, but An American Family did illustrate the unvarnished difficulties of one Santa Barbara family's struggles, including separation and divorce, at a time when such things were spoken about in hushed tones if at all.
Thinking About The Kids
Since its inception, PBS had produced programming for every demographic, but after September 11, 2001, they switched exclusively to children's programming. PBS explained that they wanted at least one safe channel to give kids an escape from the onslaught of horror that all too often takes over the media. Of course, even the small lives of children aren't immune to tragedy. That's exactly what struck when beloved children's television icon Fred Rogers passed away just a few years later, but PBS responded to Mister Rogers's death in an extremely Mister Rogers way: They used it as an opportunity to teach parents how to help their children cope with grief by publishing a guide titled "If Your Child Asks About Fred Rogers's Death."
The Proof Is In The Pudding
PBS has always been at the forefront of educational programming. For example, when PBS learned that 1 in 4 Americans couldn't find the Pacific Ocean or the USSR on a map, they created the show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? to sneak geography lessons into an international crime caper. More recently, they've launched a portal of digital classroom resources called PBS LearningMedia.
Just how successful has PBS been in their efforts to educate the masses? Well, compared to other networks, PBS "reaches more kids age 2--5, moms with young children, and children from low-income families," a whopping 71% of children between the ages of 2 and 8 watch PBS, and "parents of young children rank PBS Kids as the most trusted and reliable media brand for school readiness." After PBS LearningMedia was integrated into their curriculum, studies showed that "student performance on content assessments across subject areas increased 8%." Also, students whose teachers used PBS LearningMedia outperformed national assessment norms by 10% on average. Pretty good for a dinky little program distributor and broadcaster, huh?
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