Thinking Inside the Box

And the Survey Says This About Public TV...

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV

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

You know, we've had some remarkable success in recent months with local series such as AROUND THE CORNER WITH JOHN McGIVERN and WISCONSIN FOODIE, and PBS series NOVA, MARKET WARRIORS, and of course DOWNTON ABBEY. And when I use the word "success" in this context, I am talking about the size of the audiences. We estimate that every week we aired DOWNTON ABBEY this winter, for example, well over 100,000 people watched the episode on Milwaukee Public Television. Tens of thousands more have been viewing the series online, or watching it on DVD. I won't lie to you -- it's great to have such large and loyal audiences enjoying public television's unique content.

But the metrics that matter even more are the trust and value the community finds in the programming and related services we offer. That's sometimes trickier to track than the ratings for one broadcast or another.

About 10 years ago, we in public broadcasting decided it was important to compile that data so we and you could know how we are serving the public, staying true to our mission and shared values.

This year's research was conducted in January 2013 by the independent, non-partisan research firm ORC International. And the results are gratifying -- even eye-popping!

The survey says public television is America's most trusted institution, and an excellent use of tax dollars. And when you look at our service to children the national research has lots to say: viewers confirm that PBS Kids is the most educational media, the safest on-air and online destination, and the top provider of content that helps children learn reading, math, and essential skills.

What's even more remarkable is that this is the tenth straight year that public TV is #1 in public trust, besting Congress, newspapers, and cable and commercial TV. In fact, the study found that respondents had nearly twice the level of trust in public TV over the second-place institution, which was courts of law.

Considering that, as non-commercial stations, about 10 percent of the public TV budget comes from the federal government, we also wanted to know what folks thought about the value we provide for tax dollars. Here again, it's encouraging news: second only to military defense, PBS was picked as the best value for the American tax dollar -- three-quarters of those polled called public TV an "excellent" or "good" use of those dollars.

And equally as important, 76 percent said money given to PBS by governments and corporations, as well as individuals, was money well spent -- 76 percent!

PBS was also named the most fair network when it comes to news coverage, investigations, and discussions of issues -- more fair than CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, and Fox News.

Finally -- and these results should be critical to parents, grandparents, and teachers -- our efforts to serve children are almost off the charts in comparison to other stations. PBS Kids is the #1 educational media brand; our programming helps prepare children for success in school and life; we help children learn reading, math, and essential skills; and PBS is a trusted and safe place to watch television and to visit online. So when it came to the bottom line question -- which station is the undisputed leader in children's programming? -- well, PBS left cable TV and commercial broadcast TV in the dust. No contest.

We always strive to do better. But when we say that Milwaukee Public Television is our area's largest classroom; its biggest stage for the arts; a trusted window to the world; that we provide a place for you to access new ideas and information; and that our vision is to help every citizen build a brighter future -- when we say those things, it's good to know that a majority of you agree with those goals.

Thank you for your support and feedback, and I'll be back again soon with more "Thinking Inside the Box."