The 2012 general election is finally upon us. The rhetoric, campaigning, negative ads, debating, positioning, charges, counter-charges and fear mongering come to an end and the choice of our next president is finally in the hands of the electorate. Please exercise your rights as a citizen and make your informed decision in the election booth on Nov. 6.
WTVP and public television as an industry work very hard to be apolitical. My mantra for nearly 50 years in the business is that "public television is like Switzerland." We and the entirety of our public television brethren work diligently to present a cross section of issues and viewpoints so you can have the thoughtful information necessary for making an informed decision. "Fair and balanced" is more than an advertising slogan with us, it's a way of life.
WTVP's local support comes from a wide range of individuals: from the far right to the far left and all points in between. Like you, they appreciate that our job is to educate, to inform, to provide access to arts, culture and science. They trust their minds, their children and their children's minds to WTVP - and that is something we do not take for granted. WTVP is valued because our programming is useful, relevant, entertaining... and unavailable elsewhere. The return on their investment is seen daily, 24-hours per day, 365 days per year on three channels and the Internet. They find WTVP essential because the human mind yearns to learn and public television delivers.
As the person you have entrusted with running public television in central Illinois, I must tell you that I was dismayed when during the first presidential debate in October, Mr. Romney indicated that he would "stop the subsidy to PBS." Federal support is critical to the continued existence of public television stations in small markets like Peoria-Bloomington/Normal. It accounts for about 22% of WTVP's annual budget, and that money helps leverage the other 78% which largely comes from local sources like your membership contributions, the Auction, and on-air appeals. Without federal support our services would dry up, program quality would suffer, and people would lose jobs. Would WTVP survive? Perhaps in some diminished capacity, but certainly not in the manner you've come to expect.
And what difference will it make to the federal budget if funding for public broadcasting is cut? Very little. Federal funding for public broadcasting accounts for about one one-hundredth of one-percent of the federal budget; about $1.35 per person per year. And over the course of that year, 91% of all U.S. television households tune in to their local public television station. In fact, our broadcast service is watched by 81% of all children between the ages of 2-8.
I will submit that perhaps Mr. Romney's advisors have not properly advised him on the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. Regardless of your politics or how the election turns out, the facts regarding public broadcasting need to be made clear. Here are ways you can help:
1) Join the movement at 170millionamericans.org
2) If you're on Twitter, check out #bigbird and #savebigbird
3) Visit www.wtvp.org and valuepbs.org
4) Become a regular sustaining member of WTVP
Finally, on behalf of the staff and board of WTVP, best wishes to you and yours for a happy Thanksgiving. One thing I will be thankful for is your 41 years of support of public television in Central Illinois. Thank you.
President & CEO, WTVP (Retired 2014)