Why public broadcasting is important in the digital age

A little over 45 years ago, Fred Rogers appeared before the Subcommittee on Communications of the United States Senate. At the time of his testimony, a grant for $20 million for the newly funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting, established in 1967, was in jeopardy, as President Richard Nixon wanted to cut that funding in half.

At the heart of Rogers’ testimony was education, and the role television, as it came to prominence during the course of the late 20th century, can have in the role of one’s development. His testimony showcased how much of a role television can have in education, and indeed as the years progressed, how other mediums, including the internet, have in informing and educating.

As journalists, education is at the core of what we do, whether we’re informing someone of a political event or a major conflict, or of a new social media tool or a new film an actor or actress is starring in. But beyond that, the mediums of the web, television, radio and print can be used to deliver a comprehensive education, an ability to inspire someone, an ability to make a difference.

In this age of advanced technology, questions have been asked about the ongoing role of today’s public broadcaster(s), and what they can do, as many flock to the web and social media for instantaneous information and entertainment. Although the mediums themselves are evolving, opportunities emerge for education, and the ability to inspire, educate and enlighten, whether its a child preparing for school, or for the adult that wants to continue learning.

Public television and public radio are some of those tools that can educate and inspire, and as they expand onto the internet, and on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, they have shown that no matter what the medium, we can still ensure that this society is a well educated and well informed society.

In this digital age, we as journalists can educate, inform and enlighten in more ways than ever imagined, and not only preserve this education for this generation, but also save it for the next.

Don’t write public broadcasting off. Support it and nurture it, and so we can help our colleagues in public broadcasting stations across the country continue the work that Fred Rogers made clear when he appeared before the Senate, no matter the medium.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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