Saving PBS

Saving PBS

If you and your family watch Smoky Hills Public Television and value its programming, you should be concerned about Gov. Brownback's proposal to cut funding for public broadcasting to $600,000 for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. This 42 percent cut after FY 2013's cut of 50 percent shows a lack of appreciation for the service that public broadcasting provides to all Kansans and underestimates how difficult it is to replace state funding with contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations. While I will focus on Smoky Hills Public Television, I support returning funding to Kansas' four public radio and four television stations to FY 2003-2012 levels (about $2.5 million).

Smoky Hills Public Television airs commercial-free, high-quality educational programming for people of all ages. It supplements its educational television programs for children with an outreach program to train Head Start teachers, daycare providers, and parents to teach literacy to children. Also provided are summer library programs to encourage families to read together and books to low-income children in Head Start classrooms throughout its 52-county viewing area. Smoky Hills' broadcast of 53 hours of children's educational programs each week far exceeds the Federal Communications Commission's requirement of 3 hours per week. Smoky Hills' 24 children's educational programs are purchased from PBS (Public Broadcasting System) at an annual cost of $278,000 and focus on teaching reading, science and math, social and problem-solving skills, and financial literacy.

Smoky Hills Public Television also broadcasts high-quality educational television for youths and adults. These programs bring culture and science to people who may may not be able to access live performances or museums due to distance and expense. Smoky Hills' locally produced public affairs programs, Kansas Candidates and The Kansas Legislature, keep us informed about state issues. Smoky Hills also televises high school sports and produces historical documentaries about events that occurred in central and western Kansas.

The state's allocation for public broadcasting since 2003 has never exceeded 0.06 percent of total state expenditures. However, state funding provides almost irreplaceable general operating support usually not available from private funders. Fundraising is extremely challenging for Smoky Hills compared to other public television and radio stations due to the sparse population in its 52-county viewing area. There are also fewer large foundations and corporations that support public media in in its viewing area. Although Smoky Hills still receives substantial funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this federal funding is threatened by looming federal budget cuts.

Cuts in state funding to Smoky Hills Public Television are counterproductive to achieving two of Gov. Brownback's stated goals -- increasing population in rural counties and ensuring all Kansas children can read proficiently by fourth grade. Smoky Hills' programming for adults and youths bring cultural and scientific amenities into our homes, thereby allowing us to enjoy the best of both rural and city life. Unlike commercial stations that target their programming toward their advertisers' customers, Smoky Hills broadcasts programs that appeal to a wide variety of people. Because Smoky Hills' children's educational television and outreach programs target low-income children who tend to score lower on literacy tests when entering kindergarten, this literacy work is a critical step toward making sure all children read proficiently by fourth grade.

If you value public television, ask your legislators to restore funding for public broadcasting to FY 2003-2012 levels (about $2.5 million) and become a member of Smoky Hills Public Television.

Helen Hands

Hays