As has been the custom, public television station managers descended on Washington in early April to press the case for continued federal support of public broadcasting. This year's trip was especially important because House resolutions were passed earlier in the year to eliminate all funding. With a number of new Congressional Representatives and staff in place, our mission was one of education. It was gratifying to learn when we got there that much of the education had already been done by you and thousands like you who called, emailed and sent letters telling of your feelings about public broadcasting. Thank you. I think you were heard.
At one of our meetings preparatory to visiting Congress, Pat Butler, the President of APTS, gave a rousing keynote speech about our industry (including public radio), and I would like to share some excerpts with you. I think it will reinforce some of the reasons that YOU support public television and WTVP.
"We are here to say that the vast majority of the American people - 70 percent of us - favor continued federal funding for public broadcasting, and in a government by the consent of the governed, that ought to count for something.
We are here to say that millions of Americans across the ideological and political spectrum trust our reporting of news and public affairs more than any other media organization in the country.
If there's a bias, it's a bias in favor of civil discourse, comprehensive journalism, a diversity of voices and viewpoints, and the balance and objectivity required of us by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
We are here to say that we serve everybody in America - rich and poor, urban and rural, black and white and every other color - for free, with information, education, culture, exploration, history, science, the best of America, and the richest portrayal of American life to be found anywhere in the media universe.
We are Ken Burns and Cokie Roberts, American Experience and American Masters, Great Performances and Austin City Limits, the PBS NewsHour and Prairie Home Companion, Masterpiece and Morning Edition, Diane Rehm and All Things Considered, NOVA and Science Friday, Car Talk and A Capitol Fourth, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and SuperWhy!, Antiques Roadshow and This American Life.
And that's just for starters.
We win more Emmys and Peabodys and Murrows than anybody. We have more international news bureaus than anybody. We teach more Hispanic children than anybody. We honor the Native American and his culture. We have helped two generations of African American and inner-city children get ready to learn and to succeed in school.
We are America's largest classroom and its greatest stage. We talk about religion and rural life, cooking and quantitative easing, policy and public affairs, gardening and global warming, Libya and Lubbock and everything else under the sun with more depth, more intelligence, more sophistication, more civility, more diversity, more objectivity and a whole lot more air time than anybody else even dreams of.
We are in the business of creating a well-educated, well-informed, cultured and civil society fully capable of meeting its responsibilities as the oldest and greatest democracy on earth..
This is not a luxury America can't afford. This is the most important, most essential thing there is in a country founded on the proposition of self-government.
We are stewards of American civilization, keepers of the national memory, teachers of young and old alike, watchmen in the night, public servants in the finest tradition of the term.
We're proud of what we do. Our fellow Americans appreciate what we do. And 170 million Americans can't be wrong."
(Read the full speech here (http://apts.org/news/speeches/patrick-butlers-speech-apts-capitol-hill-day-2011).
The battle in early April was about funding the remainder of FY 2011. The intensity of the upcoming battles for the FY 2012 budget and setting a federal debt ceiling should be exponentially greater. Stay tuned to WTVP for in-depth coverage, and please remain aware of how important it is to our representative form of democratic government that you be involved and your voice heard. You do make a difference.
President & CEO, WTVP (Retired)