Public TV cares about American public



By TRINA CUTTER
SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR
This year's presidential election may be one of the most important in the nation's history. As the essence of our democracy is being debated, public television has emerged as the only over-the-air broadcaster to commit substantial primetime coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, the forums in which our two major political parties present their platforms to the American public.
In late July, PBS 45 & amp;49 and public television stations across the country were given the opportunity to demonstrate what really makes us different from any other broadcaster. We had the chance to make evident that difference to the audience we care about most: the American public -- in every single television home in this country, with or without basic or digital cable or satellite services. We offered gavel-to-gavel prime-time coverage of the Democratic National Convention and we will do it again for the Republican National Convention beginning Monday.
Amid press coverage that asked why commercial over-the-air broadcasters chose to show only three hours total of the convention in prime-time, public television stations like PBS 45 & amp; 49 hit the spotlight. Every single household in the viewing area was given the opportunity to watch outstanding coverage provided by Jim Lehrer and The NewsHour team. This was a week that distinguished PBS stations from our over-the-air commercial colleagues in the very best terms.
We are proud to note that, nationally, PBS' overnight market ratings were up 23 percent over the conventions in 2000. While other network executives were talking about the risks of airing something that was not newsworthy, Americans were beating a track to PBS stations, voting with their remotes to say that, in fact, the details of this year's democratic process are important to them.
Healthy democracy
An informed citizenship is essential to a healthy democracy, and the media have a role to play in that. Our station lives by the conviction that investing in our citizens -- by providing balanced and intelligent information and discourse on the political process -- is how we sustain the lifeblood of democracy. It was tremendously gratifying to lead with our conviction and to find that we were leading a crowd of viewers that cares equally about public discourse.
PBS 45 & amp; 49 and public stations across the nation have a very clear mandate: to serve the American public -- as citizens, not consumers. Our mission is to educate and to inform viewers, from our youngest to our oldest, our newest immigrants to the descendants of this country's founders and the native Americans who were here before them, and from those still learning English to those who teach, write or publish. For our support, we look to that public for contributions. As taxpayers, they provide public broadcasting less than a dollar per person per year, and we are grateful for it. On top of that, as individuals, they provide this station with more than half of our annual revenues with their voluntary contributions. And without that help -- your help -- we couldn't do this job for you. Thank you.
X Trina Cutter is president and general manager of PBS 45 & amp;49.

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