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PBS Kicks Off 50th Anniversary
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Celebration features favorite PBS personalities, social media campaign and launch of unprecedented storytelling initiative: PBS American Portrait


PASADENA, CA; January 10, 2020 —When PBS first went on the air nearly 50 years ago, it was born out of a groundbreaking idea: that Americans deserve a non-commercial television service whose sole mission is to educate and inspire. Guided by that bold mission, public television has transformed communities and strengthened lives. Today, at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger reflected on the organization’s storied history and shared plans for the year ahead, including the launch of the anniversary’s signature programming initiative, PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT. See a commemorative video here.

The celebration of this historic milestone kicks off with a social media campaign featuring quotes from some of PBS’s most iconic figures, such as Julia Child, Mister Rogers and Ken Burns. PBS will invite people to share their favorite memories and moments, including the ways in which public television has sparked their curiosity and inspired their love of learning, using #PBS50.

“This milestone offers an opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary contributions of PBS and our more than 330 member stations, including innovations that changed the media industry, and beloved programs, people and characters that are deeply woven into our culture,” said Kerger. “While the media landscape has dramatically changed since PBS’s founding, public television continues to serve as a beacon of thoughtful and thought-provoking media for millions of Americans. That mission is as important today as it was 50 years ago.”

Kerger also announced the launch of the signature programming initiative of the 50th anniversary—PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT, a multi-platform, national story-telling project that captures what it really means to be an American today. People across the country are invited to share their stories through photo, video and text submissions. PBS will then share and amplify those stories through digital platforms, events and educational resources for the classroom, as well as a multi-part broadcast event in 2021. Throughout the year, PBS will partner with member stations to bring AMERICAN PORTRAIT into local communities.

“As we look to PBS’s next 50 years, AMERICAN PORTRAIT represents the kind of immersive, interactive experience that will engage audiences in a whole new way,” said Kerger. “Combining new storytelling formats with our unmatched reach into communitites, this is a project that only public television can do.”

Details on additional initiatives relating to PBS’s 50th anniversary will be announced in the coming weeks.


About PBS
PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’s broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’s premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV— including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.


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Jennifer Rankin Byrne, PBS, 703-739-5487,

Eleanor May, PBS, 703-739-8603,


For images and additional up-to-date information on this and other PBS programs, visit PBS PressRoom at