Mitchell Lays Out PBS Funding Initiative

Dec 2, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of PBS, said Thursday her organization is launching an initiative to help develop new sources of funding and increase revenues in a diverse media market.

Ms. Mitchell laid out the initiative during the keynote address at a forum on “The Future of Public Television” during a conference at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies, the McCormack Tribune Foundation and the Irving V. Harris Foundation.

“No other media enterprise is better poised to illuminate the complex issues of our times, to explore what’s at stake in terms of the environment, health care, welfare, education, governance at every level … than public service media, which belongs to the public and is accountable only to the public,” she said.

Ms. Mitchell said the Enhanced Funding Initiative will explore and report on how to best increase sustainable and renewable sources of funding for public television.

Leading the nonpartisan initiative are former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and former Netscape CEO James Barksdale. The National Policy Committee of PBS’s board will oversee the effort. The national public broadcasting organizations — the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Association of Public Television Stations and National Public Radio — will each be represented by a board member. The group also will hear from public interest groups and other interested parties.

Participants will review research and gather information on various approaches to enhancing funding for public television, including the feasibility of building a federal trust fund based on the proceeds of early-returned analog spectrum from public television stations to add to the current federal funding mix.

The results of the meetings will be compiled into a report to PBS’s National Policy Committee that will analyze current funding models, examine potential solutions for bolstering funding and describe how such a proposal would be executed. The process will start this month and run for three to six months.

The process is funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation intended to help PBS construct planning models for the future.

“I think it’s time to ask the question,” Ms. Mitchell said. “Are we as a society going to make the commitment we need to make to sustain a vibrant public service media enterprise, to allow it to become even more relevant and valued in the digital age?”