PBS Unveils Long-Term Strategic Plan for "PBS KIDS" in the Digital Age

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Ten-Month Study, Made Possible By Markle Foundation Grant, Identifies Six Fundamental Principles To Guide and Govern Public Service Media For Kids and Families
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., June 24, 2002 - Seeking to strengthen its public service mission to children and families and take full advantage of digital convergence, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), has completed a 10-month study to develop a long-term strategic plan to inform the development of children's media for future generations. The study was made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Markle Foundation in April 2001, matched by PBS.

Between July 2001 and April 2002, PBS conducted a series of roundtable and online discussions examining the distinctive role of public service media in the lives of digital-age children. The conclusions and recommendations of the PBS/Markle Foundation Study, "One Mission, Many Screens," released today at the PBS Annual Meeting in San Francisco, points to six fundamental principles to guide and govern public service media for kids and families.

"As for-profit businesses see value in the services once unique to PBS, it is imperative that we sharpen our focus, emphasize our originality, and state our distinctive attributes more boldly," said PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell. "The 'One Mission, Many Screens' research provides a blueprint upon which PBS KIDS® can build an enduring foundation for serving a broad and diverse audience of children and families."

According to the study, a strategic plan for PBS KIDS must flow from a succinct mission, unique to PBS's children's services, but closely linked with the overall core purpose of PBS. The PBS KIDS mission statement that emerged from the study follows:

PBS KIDS educates, enriches and entertains all of America's children, employing the full spectrum of media to build knowledge and critical thinking; to empower children as citizens of their communities, nation and world; and to welcome parents, teachers and caregivers as learning partners.

Underpinning the mission statement are six fundamental principles that should guide and govern public service media for children:

1. Public service media recognize education as the driving force in all decisions.

For PBS KIDS this means:
Choices of target audience, content, format, medium (or multiple media), partnerships and marketing are driven by developmentally sound curriculum and goals.

2. Public service media reach out to young people wherever they are, and are committed to universal access.

For PBS KIDS this means:
An ecumenical approach to delivery mechanism, including and combining as appropriate television (analog and digital), Internet, video-cassette, radio, packaged digital media (i.e., DVD, CD-ROM, computer software, console games), wireless communication devices and print. While making every effort to avoid choices that widen the 'digital divide,' universal access need not mean that everyone has free access to everything, always.

3. Public service media are often noncommercial, but not anti-commerce.

For PBS KIDS this means:
Retaining its noncommercial status. To uphold its "we're not selling anything but learning" message, however, PBS KIDS must place educational necessity before merchandising potential in commissioning, development or acquisition of multi-media content.

4. Public service media organizations are the hub of a wide-ranging network of partnerships. They use local, national and international alliances to welcome and prepare children as citizens of communities, nations and the world.

For PBS KIDS this means:
Unlike any other U.S. broadcast, cable, satellite or online service, public broadcasting is locally owned and operated, but with strong national content and international associations. It is uniquely suited to provide a blend of information, ideas and connections that enable children to explore and expand their world at developmentally appropriate times and places.

5. Public service media take creative content and programming risks.

For PBS KIDS this means:
Public broadcasting is accountable to the public, and not to shareholders or investors. This affords it the unique opportunity - some would say obligation - to defy common wisdom and experiment with the boundaries of technology and content, so long as the goal is better to fulfill its mission.

6. Public service media employ multiple measures of success.

For PBS KIDS this means:
Whereas commercial media are held accountable to a bottom line of ratings and/or ancillary merchandise revenues, public service media have the luxury of multiple indicators of success both quantitative and qualitative.

For the study, the term "public service media" describes the social, economic and technological framework in which American public broadcasting and its counterparts worldwide increasingly operate. Though the report uses public service media, public broadcasting, PBS and PBS KIDS to convey different, complementary and important meanings, the terms do share a common bond: a commitment to serving audience needs rather than business imperatives.

"One Mission, Many Screens" reflects the expertise, opinions, practices and principles of people and organizations engaged in public service media and related professions worldwide. The report takes into account current research, journalistic coverage of children's issues and media trends and both lay and professional writing on youth, media, education and entertainment.

"As we look toward next generation of children's media, we at Markle recognize that the style and content of new technologies will work best when they meet children's needs and resonate with their developmental abilities," said Alice Cahn, managing director, interactive media, Markle Foundation. "It is public service media's mission and responsibility to have those needs front and center in creating and commissioning content, as well as in their use of distribution technology. Our children now expect media to help them connect with each other, with their entertainment, with sources of knowledge, and with their families. PBS has the potential to play a key role in this environment, with information about young audience's needs as their inspiration."

This work is part of Markle's Interactive Media for Children program, which is focused on researching the impact of interactive media on children and translating that research into the development and production of children's interactive media products.

Directing the study and compiling the findings for PBS and the Markle Foundation was David Kleeman of the American Center for Children and Media. Prior to joining the Center, Mr. Kleeman was at PBS from 1983 to 1988 where he held positions of increasing responsibility including program associate and assistant director of children's and cultural programming, associate director of program operations and, lastly, associate director of scheduling. Mr. Kleeman is an author, speaker, strategist, and analyst on children's media. He has served as an advisor to such companies and organizations as Fox Family, Microsoft, the MIT Media Lab, and UNICEF.

The Markle Foundation works to realize the potential of emerging communications media and information technology to improve people's lives and promotes the development of communications industries that address public needs. Markle recently announced a $100 million commitment to grants, investments and projects over the next 3-5 years. More information on the Markle Foundation can be found at www.markle.org.

PBS KIDS provides a nonviolent, noncommercial daily television schedule that empowers children as members of their communities, nation and world. PBS KIDS welcomes parents, teachers, and caregivers as learning partners through broadcast as well as online through pbskids.org. PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise, owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 90 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.

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Cathy Lehrfeld, PBS

Peter Kerr, Markle Foundation