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The Corporation For Public Broadcasting


One of the enduring legacies of John Gardner was his work promoting public television and radio, programming on non-commercial stations whose value is based on its merits not its market value.

Since the 1940's, the federal government has supported public stations because of their educational value. In 1945, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reserved twenty radio channels for noncommercial radio broadcasting. The Pacifica Foundation in Berkeley, California, was the first to take advantage of the non-commercial frequencies starting KPFA in 1949, the first station run by a non-profit community group. In 1952, the FCC reserved educational channels throughout the country; a year later KUHT in Houston, Texas became the first non-commercial educational television station.

Congress experimented in funding programming for the new public stations in 1962 with the Education Television Facilities Act, but the early support for public stations was unorganized. To examine this problem, Carnegie Corporation President John Gardner and Vice President Alan Pifer created the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television and began a landmark study of how to improve public broadcasting. They proposed the creation of a Corporation for Public Television to expand federal funding of public television. It was not until 1967, though, when Gardner was in the Johnson cabinet, that the plan was implemented. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, non-profit corporation managed by a nine-member board appointed by the President and approved by the Senate to funnel government support to public stations and producers nationwide.

Upon signing the bill, President Johnson credited John Gardner (who attended the bill signing ceremony as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare) with helping to create the legislation: "I think I should add that John Gardner came to me in the early days when he was head of the Carnegie Commission, before we brought him in here, and suggested this Commission and asked me to help participate in forming it and making suggestions. We are indebted to Dr. Gardner for this as we are to many things that he has done to provide leadership in the field of what is really important in the world -- the education of our people."

The first official meeting of the nine-member CPB board was held on April 26, 1968, and educational programming was its top priority. In 1968, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood debuted, followed the next year by Sesame Street. Both programs received international recognition for their entertainment value and success in motivating children to learn. In 1969, the CPB formed the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), a private non-profit corporation comprising 171 noncommercial licensees who operate 347 member stations around the country.

PBS oversees program acquisition, distribution and promotion, education services, new media ventures, fundraising support and engineering, and technology development for its members. Its programs focus on education, history, culture, nature, science, public affairs and children's programming.In 1970, CPB formed a similar network of public radio stations, National Public Radio, which supports the production of and distribution for popular news programs such as "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" as well as entertainment programs such as "A Prairie Home Companion" and "Car Talk."

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