North Texas Daily

The relevance of PBS and educational television

The relevance of PBS and educational television

The relevance of PBS and educational television
March 27
21:24 2017

On April 10, “Sesame Street” will introduce an autistic character named Julia. The classic series has been a staple of PBS and many children’s lives for 47 years and works to promote diversity and bridge cultural and educational gaps.

During its time, the show has made great efforts to do so with characters such as Julia. Other characters helping to attain these goals are Alex, who has an incarcerated father; Rosita, a puppet who speaks English and Spanish; and Segi, an African-American puppet who sings about loving her hair.

That said, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget threatens to defund aid to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, which funds PBS, NPR and Ready to Learn, a program aimed at low-income school children.

“Sesame Street” has a deal with HBO allowing the show to air on their channel even before it hits PBS, so none of the Muppets will be losing their jobs. Although programs such as “Sesame Street” probably won’t cease to exist, the effect of defunding CPB could take away screen time in certain areas.

Interestingly enough, the defunding of CPB may hurt those in areas that voted for Trump the most. It turns out it’s actually expensive to get public broadcasting into rural areas. According to the CPB, “43 percent of public broadcasting station guarantees [that receive] support are considered rural.” Those stations employ about 6,000 people and rely more on CPB revenue than any other urban area stations. Hindering this could potentially take away jobs and equal content to people of all incomes and areas of the country.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was asked how he could approach hardworking Americans and tell them what we were spending money on.

“Can I really go to those folks, look them in the eye and say, look, I want to take money from you and I want to give it to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting?” Mulvaney said to CNN two weeks ago.

I think you can, especially because it would impact them the most. CPB is supposed to be an example of unnecessary government spending, but a survey taken in February from American Viewpoint and Hart Research Associates concluded that 73 percent of voters from all parties oppose the elimination of federal funding for public television.

Fred Rogers, a PBS legend, spoke to the Senate in 1969 about a possible defunding of PBS and shared one of his most famous messages about what his shows explore.

“We deal with such things as getting a haircut, or the feelings about brothers and sisters, and the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations. And we speak to it constructively,” Rogers said.

I think it is important to know PBS is still airing in his honor, by showing reruns and creating new shows that speak to all types of children.

Educational television is valuable, and is arguably more valuable in homes that are less fortunate. For families that don’t have cable, these shows are the only things some children will watch. Some of those homes might not have very present parents, or are in rougher situations, and PBS shows may offer a kind of support they lack.

Whatever it may be, shows on PBS promote everything from how to cope with your emotions to sparking interest in math and science. The channel was mainly what my brother and I watched growing up, and the lessons we took away from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Sesame Street” and “Between the Lions” surpass simply learning how to read a few words.

Much of what is taught is character building and provides structure and guidelines on how to lead a good life. It starts a lot of conversations that many children aren’t exposed to and that some may never have to face, but will allow them to understand what others may be facing and how to act around them.

It is an uncontroversial and neutral topic that has support from each side. Although there have been similar conversations in the past to prove why CPB and PBS is important, it hasn’t seemed this necessary to stress it in a long time.

Featured Illustration: Antonio Mercado

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Tori Falcon

Tori Falcon

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