PBS is an American public broadcaster and television program distributor. It is a nonprofit organization and the most prominent provider of educational television programming to public television stations in the United States, distributing series such as American Experience, America’s Test Kitchen, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, Barney & Friends, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Downton Abbey, Finding Your Roots, Frontline, The Magic School Bus, Masterpiece, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Nature, Nova, the PBS NewsHour, Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, Teletubbies, and This Old House.
PBS is funded by a combination of member station dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Datacast, pledge drives, and donations from both private foundations and individual citizens. All proposed funding for programming is subject to a set of standards to ensure the program is free of influence from the funding source.
However, PBS is not responsible for all programming carried on public television stations, a large proportion of which may come from its member stations, including WGBH-TV, WETA-TV, WNET, WTTW, WHYY-TV, Twin Cities PBS, American Public Television, and independent producers. This distinction regarding the origin of different programs on the service present a frequent source of viewer confusion.
PBS has more than 350 member television stations, many owned by educational institutions, nonprofit groups both independent or affiliated with one particular local public school district or collegiate educational institution, or entities owned by or related to state government.
PBS was established on November 3, 1969 by Hartford N. Gunn Jr. (president of WGBH), John Macy (president of CPB), James Day (last president of National Educational Television), and Kenneth A. Christiansen (chairman of the department of broadcasting at the University of Florida),
PBS began operations on October 5, 1970, taking over many of the functions of its predecessor, National Educational Television (NET), which later merged with Newark, New Jersey station WNDT to form WNET. In 1973, it merged with Educational Television Stations.
Immediately after public disclosure of the Watergate scandal, on May 17, 1973, the United States Senate Watergate Committee commenced proceedings; PBS broadcast the proceedings nationwide, with Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer as commentators. For seven months, nightly “gavel-to-gavel” broadcasts drew great public interest, and raised the profile of the fledgling PBS network.
PBS PBS broadcasts children’s programming as part of the service’s (and including content supplied by other distributors not programmed by the service, its member stations’) morning and afternoon schedule. As the children’s programs it distributes are intended to educate as well as entertain its target audience, PBS and its stations have long been in compliance with educational programming guidelines set by the Federal Communications Commission in response to the enactment of the Children’s Television Act of 1990. Many member stations have historically also broadcast distance education and other instructional television programs, typically during daytime slots; though with the advent of digital television, which has allowed stations to carry these programs on digital subchannels in lieu of the main PBS feed or exclusively over the Internet, many member stations/networks have replaced distance education content with children’s and other programming,.
Unlike its radio counterpart, National Public Radio, PBS does not have a central program production arm or news division. All of the programming carried by PBS, whether news, documentary or entertainment, is created by (or in most cases produced under contract with) other parties, such as individual member stations.
Boston member WGBH-TV is one of the largest producers of educational television programming, including shows like American Experience, Arthur, Masterpiece Theatre, Nova, Antiques Roadshow and Frontline, as well as many other children’s and lifestyle programs.
News programs are produced by WETA-TV (PBS Newshour) in Washington, D.C., WNET in New York City and WPBT in Miami. Newark, New Jersey/New York City member WNET produces or distributes programs such as Secrets of the Dead, Nature, and Cyberchase. PBS also works with other networks for programming such as CNN International for Amanpour & Company which is a co-production of CNN International and WNET.
PBS member stations are known for rebroadcasting British television costume dramas, comedies and science fiction programs (acquired from the BBC and other sources) such as Downton Abbey; ‘Allo ‘Allo!; Are You Being Served?; The Benny Hill Show, Red Dwarf; The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin; Father Ted; Fawlty Towers; Harry Enfield and Chums; Keeping Up Appearances; Monty Python’s Flying Circus; Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley, Doctor Who, and Sherlock; consequently, this has led to jocular references that the service’s name stands for “Primarily British Series”.
However, a significant amount of sharing takes place. The BBC and British broadcasters such as Channel 4 often cooperate with PBS stations, producing material that is shown on both sides of the Atlantic. Less frequently, Canadian, Australian and other international programming appears on PBS stations (such as The Red Green Show, currently distributed by syndicator Executive Program Services); public broadcasting syndicators are more likely to offer this programming to U.S.-based public television stations.
PBS is not the only distributor of public television programming to the member stations. Other distributors have emerged from the roots of companies that maintained loosely held regional public television stations in the 1960s. Boston-based American Public Television (which, among other names, was formerly known as Eastern Educational Network and the American Program Service) is second only to PBS for distributing programs to U.S. non-commercial stations.
Another distributor is NETA (formerly SECA), whose properties have included The Shapies and Jerry Yarnell School of Fine Art. In addition, the member stations themselves also produce a variety of local shows, some of which subsequently receive national distribution through PBS or other distributors.
PBS Kids is the brand for children’s programs aired by PBS. The PBS Kids Channel, launched in 1999 and operated until 2005, was largely funded by satellite provider DirecTV. The channel ceased operations on September 26, 2005, in favor of PBS Kids Sprout, a commercial digital cable and satellite television channel originally operated as a joint venture with Comcast, Sesame Workshop and Apax Partners (NBCUniversal, which Comcast acquired in 2011, later acquired the other partners’ interests in the channel in 2012).
However, the original programming block still exists on PBS, filling daytime and in some cases, weekend morning schedules on its member stations; many members also carry 24-hour locally programmed children’s networks featuring PBS Kids content on one of their digital subchannels. A revived version of the PBS Kids Channel was launched on January 16, 2017. In 2019, PBS Kids is the only children’s programming block on U.S. broadcast television.
As PBS is often known for doing, PBS Kids has broadcast imported series from other countries; these include British series originally broadcast by the BBC and ITV. Through American Public Television, many PBS stations also began airing the Australian series Raggs on June 4, 2007. Some of the programs broadcast as part of the service’s children’s lineup or through public broadcast syndication directly to its members have subsequently been syndicated to commercial television outlets (such as Ghostwriter and The Magic School Bus).
PBS member stations and networks – including Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MHSAA), Georgia Public Broadcasting (GHSA), Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPA), Iowa Public Television (IGHSAU), Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NSAA), and WKYU-TV (Western Kentucky Hilltoppers) locally broadcast high school and college sports.
From the 1980s onward, the national PBS network has not typically carried sporting events, mainly because the broadcast rights to most sporting events have become more cost-prohibitive in that timeframe, especially for nonprofits with limited revenue potential; in addition, starting with the respective launches of the MountainWest Sports Network (now defunct) and Big Ten Network in 2006 and 2007 and the later launches of the Pac-12 Network and ESPN’s SEC Network and ACC Network, athletic conferences have acquired rights for all of their member university’s sports programs for their cable channels, restricting their use from PBS member stations, even those associated with their own universities.
From 1976 to 1989, KQED produced a series of Bundesliga matches under the banner Soccer Made in Germany, with Toby Charles announcing. PBS also carried tennis events, as well as Ivy League football. Notable football commentators included Upton Bell, Marty Glickman, Bob Casciola, Brian Dowling, Sean McDonough and Jack Corrigan. Other sports programs included interview series such as The Way It Was and The Sporting Life.
PBS News hour
PBS News hour is an hour-long evening news broadcast, hosted by Judy Woodruff which offers news updates, analysis, live studio interviews, discussions.