Public broadcasting makes our nation smarter, stronger and, yes, safer. It’s a small public investment that pays huge dividends for Americans. And it shouldn’t be pitted against spending more on improving our military. That’s a false choice. Experience has taught me that education, trusted institutions and civil discourse are the lifeblood of a great nation.
Public broadcasting plays a special role with young children. More than half of all kids in our country do not have the opportunity to attend a preschool program. I’ve also seen research that PBS local stations reach more children ages 2 to 5 than any other children’s network, and the new dedicated PBS Kids channel is the only free national programming for children that is available anywhere and anytime.
Public television works hard to engage young learners and build the skills needed for a jump-start on life. We need our youngest to be curious, resilient and empathetic, and prepared for the jobs of the future.
Public, noncommercial broadcasting is also giving kids social-emotional skills like persistence and self-control that are fundamental to success in school. In our society, I see public media as a lever. It pushes people by elevating them and their sights. It brings them into more thinking and understanding, and it brings us together. The federal appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — about $445 million annually — supports more than a thousand television and radio stations at a cost of about $1.35 per citizen. President Trump has proposed scrapping the corporation.
We need public media that acts as our largest classroom. We need broadcasting that treats us as citizens, not simply as consumers. We need a strong civil society where the connection between different people and groups is firm and vibrant, not brittle and divided. We need to defend against weaknesses within and enemies without, using the tools of civil society and hard power. We don’t have to pick one over the other.