This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Denver Post March 28, 2017.
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Colorado’s two public television stations may occupy different places on the dial, but we are united in the recognition that eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would harm our ability to serve diverse communities across Colorado.
Since the inception of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), leaders spanning the political spectrum have voiced their support for public media. President Lyndon Johnson viewed funding CPB as akin to a worldwide announcement that “We in America have an appetite for excellence.” When signing legislation to appropriate funding for public media in 1975, President Gerald Ford stated simply that “public broadcasting is for all Americans.” And more recently, Vice President Mike Pence said that “public television plays a vital role in educating all of the public, most especially our children.”
Outside the Beltway, Americans likewise understand that funding public media should represent a nonpartisan issue. Recent polling conducted by the Democratic-leaning Hart Research Associates and the Republican-leaning American Viewpoint found that 83 percent percent of voters (including 70 percent of those who voted for President Donald Trump) say they would tell Congress to look for cuts somewhere other than public television. No matter their political affiliation, Americans appreciate the programming provided by PBS affiliates like Colorado Public Television and Rocky Mountain Public Media.
Today, however, federal funding for public broadcasting matters more than ever. In 2016, less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the federal budget benefited Americans from Alaska to Florida. In Colorado, CPB support allows us to invest in infrastructure that serves communities spanning the mountains and the plains, ensuring that 98 percent of Colorado receives our broadcasts over the air for free.
Indeed, CPB funding is essential to continuing the unique educational benefits of public media across Colorado. We know that American families struggle to prepare their children for kindergarten and that five out of 10 parents are worried that their children won’t have the skills they need when they start elementary school. Yet PBS KIDS stands out as the most trusted and relied-upon brand for school readiness, ranking first in helping parents prepare their kids for kindergarten on every measured skill. And PBS KIDS has a particular impact on households in need, with a higher impact on low-income households and communities of color, where children watch PBS KIDS in higher numbers than commercial children’s programming. With support for public broadcasting, Rocky Mountain Public Media and Colorado Public Television can thus ensure a continuum of education support for all of Colorado.
Public media is also vital to the civic fabric of Colorado. Our combined commitment to local news and public affairs provides an increasingly critical resource to people from different backgrounds and varying perspectives, informing collective discussions and daily lives. Nationally, “PBS NewsHour” is one of the most trusted news programs on television and is the only network evening newscast that is actually growing in viewership. Locally, RMPBS brings investigative news programming with “Insight with John Ferrugia,” Colorado history content with “Colorado Experience,” and arts coverage with “Arts District.” Colorado Public Television specializes in public affairs programming that highlights viewpoints across the political spectrum, from “The Devil’s Advocate” with John Caldara, “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman, and “Colorado Inside Out,” a weekly panel discussion hosted by Dominic Dezutti. In other words, public media strives to be an informational and inspirational resource for all Coloradans and the nation at large.
Because of support across the political divide, RMPBS and CPT-12 can elevate stories that would otherwise go untold, celebrate everyday heroes, and convene communities. We help to bridge divides, listen, learn, and build a greater appreciation for our collective history, culture and humanity. Protecting public funding for public media thus supports our community. So we call upon readers, the Colorado congressional delegation, and all of Colorado to continue support for CPB as a resource vital to Colorado. After all, CPB funding makes America (and Colorado) great.
David Leonard is chairman of the board for Rocky Mountain Public Media. Micah Schwalb is chairman of the board for Colorado Public Television.