PBS Update Regarding New York Times Article, “Is PBS Still Necessary”

Posted by PBS Publicity on

More than 5,000 viewers post comments on the Online NewsHour;
New York Times posts 850 before closing 24-hour forum

Statement from Paula Kerger, PBS President and PBS

On February 17, the New York Times published an essay headlined "Is PBS Still Necessary?" This 1,200-word article by Charles McGrath suggests PBS's glory days are over and that cable networks provide the same kind of quality programming that viewers find on public television

It saddened me to see such an inaccurate and baseless attack on public television - one that ignores so many facts - in such an esteemed publication.

PBS reaches nearly 73 million people each week through our top-quality on-air and online content. We also open minds each and every day as one of teachers' top sources of video content in the classroom. Our online sites, such as PBS Teachers and PBS Parents, support lifelong learning well beyond the television and computer screens.

According to a national Roper survey, the public considers PBS and PBS stations the most trusted public institution. This study also shows we are tied with military defense as the best use of tax dollars.

Our core purpose - to teach, to learn and to tell America's stories - is more vital than ever. The public we serve believes we are fulfilling that critical mission.

Public Response

In response to the article, viewers went online to defend public broadcasting, posting more than 800 comments to the New York Times site before the forum closed on Monday afternoon.

In an editor's note at the end of the Tuesday, February 19, NewsHour broadcast, Jim Lehrer encouraged viewers to read the article and share their thoughts via a forum on the Online NewsHour. To date, more than 5,000 comments have been posted online from viewers in the United States - as well as viewers in Canada, Africa, Australia and Asia.

On Friday, February 22, 2008, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer will air a brief follow-up report about the response from viewers online.

Sunday February 17

  • New York Times article asks "Is PBS still necessary?"
  • 846 comments posted to New York Times web site,  largely supportive of PBS, mentioning programs like the NewsHour, NOVA, Frontline, NOW, Masterpiece, and Ken Burns by name.
  • 800+ comments posted to Digg.com

Tuesday, February 19

  • Jim Lehrer ends the NewsHour with an editor's note, asking viewers to share their thoughts online

Wednesday, February 20

  • By Wednesday evening, more than 3,500 comments, almost all supportive of PBS, were posted to the Online NewsHour
  • Entertainment Weekly blog Pop Watch logged several hundred comments

Thursday, February 21

  • By Thursday morning, an additional 1,500 comments from viewers around the globe had been posted to the Online NewsHour, for a total of 5,077 (and counting)



Jan McNamara