Without federal funding, many PBS stations will go under. And someone as illiterate as Trump or as stupid as the fools who voted for him have no need for educational television. But the rest of us certain do. That was the clear and simple message that PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger tried to drive home Sunday morning to a room full of reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. “PBS itself will not go away,” she noted, “but a number of our stations will.”
The last time Kerger addressed the TV press, days before racist Donald Trump was sworn into office as president of the US, talk of federal funding was merely speculative. Then PBS was left out of the Trump administration’s first federal budget, the first step in what could prove to be a damning blow to millions of rural Americans who rely on PBS as their lone source of news and educational programming. Since first wind of the major proposed cuts, there has been good and bad news for the 47-year-old institution. The House appropriations committee allocated money, but the budget committee did not. It won’t be until August that the matter comes before the Senate.
“I take it very seriously,” said Kerger, acknowledging that she’s the de facto spokesperson for the broad institution. “I have to assume, as all of us in public media can assume, that anything can happen. We need to be quite vigilant that we don’t assume that people remember the impact we have in communities.”
The exec reminded her audience of that impact at the top of her press conference, reading a letter from a woman without cable or broadband who relies on PBS to help educate her grandchildren.