Working with Your Public Television Station
How PBS Works
The Public Broadcasting Act, passed in 1967, created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which led to the formation of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1969. Many local public television stations were already operating in the 1950s and 1960s, and became part of the PBS system once it was established.
Unlike commercial networks, PBS is a member organization composed of 172 independently owned and operated public television stations, which each pay a membership fee. These station fees (along with funding from CPB) pay for programming that is distributed by satellite to member stations, some of which operate multiple channels. Together these stations reach 99 percent of the U.S. population.
The size and broadcast reach of public television stations vary greatly. Virtually all create local programs. Some stations also produce programs for national distribution through PBS.
Most stations are "full service," meaning they pay the full membership dues required to broadcast all of the programming provided by PBS. However, some stations, often because they share an audience with another station, pay reduced membership dues and may carry a limited selection of PBS programming, which they cannot air until after the initial premiere date.
In addition to providing some of the nation's most acclaimed news and public affairs, science, nature, cultural, and children's programming, PBS stations also provide a wide range of educational services, from preschool through adult levels. These services range from large-scale outreach initiatives that accompany national broadcast series, to local initiatives that address issues such as literacy or violence in the community.
PBS and its member stations are also leaders in education technology, such as closed captioning for hearing impaired viewers, Descriptive Video Service ® for blind audiences, CD-ROMs, and Web sites.
Tips on Working with Your PBS Station
Find a station liaison who is willing to partner with your group. Ask for the
outreach or community relations department.
Be specific about your project and the kind of help or relationship you would like.
Clearly establish the roles and expectations you and the station will have in your partnership.
Determine what resources each group will contribute to making the project happen.
Develop a time line for your work and make sure it doesn't conflict with other commitments.
Look for opportunities to tie into already existing initiatives and events at the station and your organization.
Discuss how you will evaluate the success of the project and your partnership.
Check in regularly to make sure each partner still feels comfortable with the relationship and the project.
Ideas for Collaboration
Cross-promote the series and your project. Stations can potentially pitch your project to their local press connections. Create a joint press release for local distribution about the station's broadcast of the series and your related activities. Share press contacts for story placements.
Spread the word on the Web. Do you have a Web site? If so, link it to the local public television station's home page or provide the station with information about your project to post on their site.
Work with stations that have joint licenses with radio to create features for local news shows and to tie in with public radio components for Africans in America.
Work with the station to feature your outreach activity in the station's monthly program guide or member magazine, or in other station printed communications.
Create flyers about your project activities that can be included in the station's membership mailings or distributed at events.
Jointly host community events such as the opening of your youth art exhibit, a historic scavenger hunt, or a library- or school-based readathon or storyteller day.
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