Public Media at 50: Looking to the Future

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its charge was to conceive, develop and expand noncommercial broadcasting and it led to the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. This anniversary is a fine moment to recall and commemorate values imbued in the Public Broadcasting Act, and the vital contributions to our national discourse and culture that followed. It’s also a useful prompt to look critically at the present and imagine a better future. When public broadcasting started in the United States, there were only three networks, stringing together stations with only local or regional reach. Original public funding was significant and, in the early years, sponsorship to enhance corporate image became a staple of public funding. By the end of the 20th Century, additional networks and cable provided a proliferation of options to viewers and advertisers that not only challenged the notion that quality tv had to be provided with public subsidy, but also changed the business model of public broadcasting. None of that significant change, however, rivals the radically different media landscape we live in now.


Public Media at 50: Looking to the Future