Thinking Inside the Box | Column | 1/7/2011
July 19, 2012
Hi, Ellis Bromberg, Thinking Inside the Box. Take you back about year ago, February 7th, 2010, to be specific. Television history was made that day -- on another network, CBS. That evening, the most-watched program in American television history was aired -- it was Super Bowl 44 (the Saints beat the Colts). An estimated 153 million total viewers watched all or part of the game, and it beat the 27-year-long record previously held by the final episode of M*A*S*H. Some folks have predicted the end of television as we know it, but it's remarkable that the media's largest audiences are not things of the past, but what we're experiencing today. Television viewing is up this past year, and so are the number of viewers dropping cable and satellite in order to watch good-old over-the-air TV. Television still brings us together with shared national experiences that we don't get over the internet or on our phones, as smart as they may be. And 153-million is an impressive number! But we know of another source that brings even more people together not just for one night of Super Bowl viewing, but every month of the year. And that's public television and radio. Every month, 170 million Americans watch public television stations like MPTV, or listen to public radio like WUWM and Wisconsin Public Radio, or use services like this website, attend our free events like MPTV Community Cinema, or our Young Writers and Illustrators workshops for children and their parents. 170 million Americans -- and that's an unduplicated number -- use public television and radio services every month of the year. 2011 will mark my 35th year in public broadcasting, and in that time, I've gotten to know how passionate so many of our viewers are. You may love this show or that -- ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FRONTLINE, OUTDOOR WISCONSIN, DOCTOR WHO, LAWRENCE WELK. Some folks tell me that public television is the only thing they'll let their children and grandchildren watch. Others tell me that Channels 10 and 36 are the only things they watch. I love hearing these comments, and I get them all the time. On the mptv.org homepage you'll see a box that says "170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting." I'm going to ask you to click on that box when you're done listening to me. MPTV has joined with other public television and radio stations across the country in an effort to harness the enthusiasm of you and the other 170-million people who use our services. The centerpiece of this campaign is the website 170MillionAmericans.org. It represents the beginning of a grassroots effort to engage the support and energy in local communities from Homer, Alaska, to Fort Myers, Florida, from Sheboygan to Kenosha to Johnson Creek to South Milwaukee. If you like and value public television and radio, we need your help. 2011 is likely to be one of the most difficult years for public broadcasting in decades, as federal and state funding, important sources of income for our stations, will be challenged repeatedly. On January 5th, the new Congress convened and public broadcasting funding was immediately targeted for potential cuts. Majority Leader Eric Cantor's YouCut initiative includes a proposal to eliminate federal funding for National Public Radio -- and proposed cuts to television will certainly follow. In fact, this threat is the first of many we expect this year. The 170 Million Americans campaign was founded on the belief that now, more than ever, our country needs a strong public media system as a source of non-partisan news, local cultural programming and non-commercial educational programs. Public funding ensures that public media will continue to be able to enhance the quality of life in local communities through our children's programming, news and public affairs, music and culture, and more. You can learn more -- and help to preserve public broadcasting as you and I know it -- by exploring yourself and then inviting your friends to join 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting. On 170MillionAmericans.org, you can find out more about this grassroots initiative -- not made up of station staff, but of viewers like you. On the website, you can even send your friends a personal invitation or get them engaged through Facebook. Remember, significant cuts or a loss of federal funding could mean the end of public broadcasting in many communities, and to much of what we do in southeastern Wisconsin. It would be a devastating blow to this free national noncommercial service that reaches, say it with me now, 170 million Americans every month. So please check it out -- on the mptv.org homepage in the right hand column click on the 170 Million Americans icon right now, and get involved. And I'll see you soon with more "Thinking Inside the Box."