PBS Funding Standards

Public television is a major participant in the great tradition of a free and independent American press.  To protect public television’s journalistic integrity, PBS’s funding standards are premised on core principles that ensure the complete editorial independence of producers from influence by underwriters.

While funding and fundraising are necessary to support the development and production of content, producers must be free from the influence of funders. This firewall is essential to maintaining the public’s trust.

PBS applies three “tests” to every proposed funding arrangement to determine its acceptability.

  • Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised any form of editorial control (e.g., review of scripts, control of rights, editorial participation).  Could it?
  • Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
  • Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?

Please click here to review the complete Icon PBS National Program Funding Standards and Practices (185.9 KB) .

Producers should identify any ethical concerns with funding sources as early as possible in the production process. Upon offering a program to PBS, producers must identify all funders and the amounts that they have provided.

Funding for PBS programs comes from a variety of sources —member stations’ dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, government agencies, foundations, corporations and private citizens. 

In addition to these sources, producers can seek production funding through PBS. Although some submissions might not be priorities for funding, PBS encourages producers whose projects meet PBS’s content goals to seek alternative financing to cover the full cost of production and to submit their projects at rough cut or completion.

PBS also disburses production funding through a jointly managed Program Challenge Fund with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Additional Funding Resources

Minority Consortia

Updated: August 2016