Thinking Inside the Box

Big Bird Survives Election Day

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV

Hi, Ellis Bromberg with more "Thinking Inside the Box" on

Well, the 2012 election is finally over, and we've been so pleased with the positive comments we received about our complete coverage of the national political conventions, and then during the campaign, THE PBS NEWSHOUR, WASHINGTON WEEK, NEED TO KNOW, and many other programs. Here in Wisconsin, Channels 10&36 were the only stations to broadcast every one of the U.S. Senatorial debates. We offered lively analysis on INTERCHANGE, and serious coverage of Wisconsin candidates and issues on HERE AND NOW. And one thing you didn't see on Milwaukee Public Television: political commercials. We don't run them, and many of you have told us how much you appreciate that.

Now, unexpectedly, federal funding for public broadcasting did become an issue in the presidential campaign. And we were uncomfortable with that -- frankly uncomfortable that both presidential candidates politicized Big Bird specifically, and more broadly public TV, in comments and commercials. The very small amount of federal funding that goes to public radio and television -- about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget, just $1.35 per person per year -- is not the reason for the federal deficit, and it is not paid for by money borrowed from China, as Mr. Romney suggested during the first presidential debate.

Look, public television is educational, non-partisan, non-sectarian media, and it has been supported year-in and year-out by a large majority of the American public in survey after survey -- nine years running as the most trusted public institution, trusted more than newspapers and cable TV networks, courts of law and Congress.

The American public has also said that PBS provides excellent value for the public moneys invested in it, second only to military defense. In a Harris Interactive poll earlier this year, three-quarters of Americans said money given to PBS from government was money well spent.

A strong majority of citizens agree public TV is a good investment, and we hope Washington has now heard that message loud and clear: people want to see Big Bird survive. And it's my hope that one of the things that emerges from this election is that we in public broadcasting can stop having to defend ourselves from politicians who single us out to get a headline.

So we're getting back to what we're here to do: with series like SESAME STREET we help every child enter school excited and prepared to learn; through THE PBS NEWSHOUR and many other programs we bring much needed civility and in-depth perspective to the discussion and examination of important topics; we provide a window into the worlds of the arts, and science, and history; and we act as an educational resource which connects with young and old on-air, online, and in community engagement and lifelong learning activities that have impact here in southeastern Wisconsin.

In this past campaign cycle we asked all the candidates for federal office in this area to tell us where they stood on public funding for public broadcasting, and we printed their responses in our membership magazine, Fine Tuning. I want to thank all of those who did respond. Among the most eloquent was our newly elected U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. She wrote: "Every month, more than 170 million Americans turn to...public broadcasting stations for...programs that focus on what's happening in their community. I've seen firsthand...throughout Wisconsin, that public radio and TV stations are often the only source of free and high-quality news, education, and arts programming available."

I want to thank Senator-elect Baldwin for her positive words about our work, and congratulate her, and all the others, on their hard-fought campaigns. She and her colleagues will now get back to work on their priorities: creating jobs and growing our economy. And we at MPTV are eager to get back to our work: providing southeastern Wisconsin with unique, quality, and educational media content and services that cannot be found elsewhere.

So I want to thank you for your support -- and please keep watching: we're still going strong at MPTV and we've got some wonderful programs and projects coming up that I will tell you about in future editions of "Thinking Inside the Box."