The president’s budget director announced earlier this month that the Trump White House intends to “zero out” funding public media’s funding arm, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Threats to PBS and NPR come with the territory when the GOP is in charge, occurring with such regularity “Nature” could do a documentary on these pests.
But one dangerous truth we’re learning is that this White House never lets a bad idea stop them.
PBS has had an interesting response. The same day budget director Michael Mulvaney appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” questioning whether it’s right to ask a “coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay” for public broadcasting, PBS began highlighting its worthiness on its Roku app. A series of short vignettes make the case for public television.
Amid categories like “Favorite Shows” and “Featured Videos” PBS inserted a new row of video tiles under the category, “The Value of PBS Stations.”
Viewers can choose from one of about a dozen short videos that tell the story of how PBS helps early childhood education, PBS’s role in rural communities and how PBS programs inspired young adults toward careers larger than they could have otherwise imagined. A hamburger flipper in Bethlehem, Pa., for example, was inspired by “Nova” to an eventual career studying evolutionary genetics.
These things truly are nothing but feel-good advertisements for PBS, the kind of interstitials that viewers of PBS on television see in between shows. That PBS is offering them on its Roku app is fairly shrewd--and for PBS it seems, fairly bold--alerting viewers there who may be trying to avoid broadcasting, that public stations in local communities tackle educational and social issues.
“We've been sharing these videos on various platforms, including our social media platforms, so help share the value of PBS and our stations,” a spokeswoman said. “These are mostly videos that we've already had in-house—in this case just offered as a collection for users of the PBS Roku app to enjoy.”
PBS doesn’t do overt fund raising on its OTT platforms, but maybe it ought to start because while PBS apps do a good job delivering shows to the public, they don’t seem to do a very good job raising money for them.
As more “skinny bundle” streaming services emerge it’s becoming easier for disenchanted cable subscribers to now access live streams of local network affiliates from their own hometowns.
But PBS stations aren’t part of that, leaving public television orphaned on an emerging platform at precisely the time it may need more and more public exposure. And as the saying goes, out of sight out of mind.
PBS says it’s “in discussion” with some of those emerging services, but for now if you’re looking for a live stream of ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox, that’s getting easy to do. Not so for PBS. “The Value of PBS Stations” is a good idea. It would be better to let streaming viewers see the stations in their own communities.