For ninth year, public says money given to public broadcasting is ‘well spent’

Can you remember the headlines from about a year ago? If so, you’ll remember how Congressional Republicans were once again taking public broadcasting to task.

There were, of course, the typical reasons du jour for Republicans to pursue the defunding. Those ranged from a perceived conservative journalist Juan Williams being fired to a highly edited recording featuring former NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller.  Several GOP folks began to speak out against public broadcasting, and NPR specifically, including a few like Newt Gingrich, who were only considering possible presidential runs at the time.

Despite the players being changed, this wasn’t the first time Americans had an opportunity to hear conservatives lambast public broadcasting. After all, Richard Nixon set his sights on PBS in 1971. And, in 1985, just after Ronald Reagan’s re-election, a State Department official boasted of his abilities to have journalists reporting “undesired” stories replaced and his attempts to intimidate NPR. In 1994, Gingrich threatened to end all funding for public broadcasting; and, shortly thereafter, began a call for more “right-friendly” public broadcast programming — although GOP pundits Peggy Noonan and Fred Barnes had already been taken into the fold. (Readers interested in more history should read Jesse Walker’s “Radio Theater” from in Feb. 2011.)

Despite the political theater… or perhaps because of it … national research confirmed that PBS and PBS stations are considered the most fair network for news and public affairs. In addition, PBS KIDS was named the most educational TV/media brand, the safest destination for children to watch television or visit online and the top provider of content that helps children build reading and math skills.

The study was conducted in January and February of this year by Harris Interactive and ORC Online Caravan, independent and nonpartisan research companies. The 2012 report marks the ninth time in a row that PBS was called the nation’s most trusted institution.

Further, PBS was considered a top use for tax dollars. That is, 64 percent of those polled called PBS an excellent or good use of tax money; and 74 percent believe federal funding for PBS is money well spent.

  • Provide people access to arts and culture – 67%
  • Promote an understanding of American history – 62%
  • Inform people of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity – 60%
  • Promote an understanding of science and technology – 60%
  • Improve literacy – 59%
  • Provide access to a variety of viewpoints – 54%
  • Inform people of important political and social issues – 51%
  • Inform people about health issues – 51%

Full results are available online as well as a summary brochure (PDF) of the findings.

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A Republican turned Democrat who is now registered with no party, Lynda is the founder of Essential Estrogen. She and her husband live in eastern Iowa with their two (mostly good) children and two (mostly good) dogs. Their oldest child was turned loose on the world in 2011 and is making her home in another state. A journalist, essayist and hobby fiction writer, Lynda's work has been seen in Salon, RH Reality Check, the Atlantic, The Iowa Independent, UK Guardian as well as other online and traditional publications. She has also appeared as a guest on various television and radio news shows.

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