Broader Definition of Television

by Giancarlo Rulli

The “Fiscal Cliff” and the Future of Public Television in the U.S.

If we don’t have an informed electorate we don’t have a democracy. So I don’t care how people get the information, as long as they get it. I’m just doing it my particular way and I feel lucky I can do it the way I want to do it. – Jim Lehrer

Jim Lehrer (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


The so-called upcoming “fiscal cliff” on Capitol Hill once again has the annual government funds allotted to public television once again in the cross-heirs. Last year, the U.S. spent 430 million dollars to support the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, also known as the CPB. These funds which represented a mere .00012 percent of the 2011 federal budget, were spread across several public broadcasting platforms including PBS, NPR and other various public stations (Bingham, 2012). But that hasn’t kept PBS out of the political spotlight throughout this hotly contested election year. In the first presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer, “I’m sorry Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I actually love Big Bird. I like you too, but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.” Lehrer, a longtime newsman and host of PBS’s arguably most well known news show “Newshour,” chose not to respond to the former Massachusetts Governor’s criticism. At the time, Romney’s vice presidential pick, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), was also a outspoken critic of federal funding for PBS. The Wisconsin Congressman had put provisions in his controversial 2010 budget plan, “The Ryan Budget,” to strip congressional funds to the CPB.

This recent push by House Republicans to strip federal money to public media comes at a very tough time for PBS because not only is PBS under the budget microscope in Congress, but also has received less private donations in recent years. According to the CPB, “between 2008 and 2009, non-federal support of public television stations fell by $260 million nationwide. In addition, for the past several years, Congressional funding has remained relatively flat, at about $400 million a year. For 2010, public radio and TV stations surveyed by CPB projected a 14 percent drop in revenue, due to state cutbacks and declines in corporate and philanthropic support and viewer pledges.” So the question arises, is public television worth the money?

“American” Trust

According to the vast majority of Americans, the answer is yes. In fact, 74 percent of American’s feel that the money PBS receives from the government, corporations, and individuals is well spent. According to a study published this February by Harris Interactive Trust QuickQuerry, PBS ranks number one in public trust at 26 percent. That far surpasses the second place finisher, the U.S. judicial system, which ranks at just 13 percent. The obvious next question arises, why do Americans feel they are receiving trustworthy news and information from their national and locally affiliated PBS stations? The prestigious Columbia Journalism Review stated that PBS and public media are, “held up as the potential savior of serious journalism, the place with the potential to tackle the tough topics—complicated revolutions in Arab lands and zoning board shenanigans alike—that an informed citizenry needs to function.”  Bill Kling, the former president and chief executive of American Public Media, says public broadcasting will eventually be “the last journalism standing,” (Jensen – 2011).

History of Budget Threats

From a historical standpoint, this isn’t the first time PBS and public media have been under fire from conservatives. During the 1970’s, members of the Nixon Administration “were dismayed” with the newly introduced network because of a “perceived liberal bias in news and information programs,” (Blumenthal-Goodenough, 2006). As a result, the growth of PBS was temporarily halted due to actions taken by the Administration and Congress to veto funding measures. These early actions aimed to stymie PBS ended up making it a “membership organization, funded largely by dues paid by locally owned and operated member stations,” (Blumenthal-Goodenough, 2006). With PBS becoming locally owned and operated, problems continue to this day on how public television structure their news and information. According to a recent Aspen Institute Study, “PBS’s national news and information programs are not produced by a single entity but by production companies or member stations in Washington, New York, Boston and Miami for distribution to other stations. Up to now, this has made it more difficult for the program producers to coordinate their efforts and bring their collective strengths to bear on major news stories such as elections or the economic crisis,” (Everhart, 2010).

PBS’ Bill Moyers (AP Photo/Ric Francis)

The Future

In conclusion, public television has the ability to play a important role in meeting the information needs of local communities. In order to survive long into the future however, public television will still need to require outside funding both on the federal and philanthropic level. It will also take collective leadership within PBS to embrace and utilize ever-expanding digital platforms. Signs of this transformation are slowing taking root in public television as this April, “NewsHour…quietly began streaming its newscast online live, for free, on,” (Jensen, 2011). Another recent example of PBS embracing online digital content was when “NewsHour” created the “oil widget,” which allowed people to view “an embeddable player that showed BP footage of the Gulf oil leak with a variety of counters that the user could select from to calculate how much oil was flowing. The oil widget went viral, with 12 million page views by the end of June, and was embedded on 6,000 web pages, (Jensen – 2011). As a direct result, the Columbia Journalism review points out “NewsHour” website traffic in the summer of 2010 ran “40 percent above the previous year,” (Jensen – 2011). This example of remarkable growth is something the PBS will continue to need to capitalize upon in the future. The fact remains, PBS can succeed in a rapidly changing digital age by fully embracing it instead of shunning new ways people access the news and media content. By building on existing strengths that has kept PBS going for decades, nurturing creativity, and developing a strong leadership strutter, public television can modify itself into public media service that meet the needs of the American people.


 Works Cited:

1) Bingham, A. (2012, October 4). Mitt romney can’t roast big bird with pbs cuts. Retrieved from

2) Blumenthal, H., & Goodenough, R. (2006). The business of television. New York, NY: Billboard Books.

3) Corporation for public broadcasting. Retrieved from

4) Everhart, K. (2010, December 13). Knight advisors urge reboot of public broadcasting . Retrieved from

5) Francis, R. (2002, January 1). People moyers. MOYERS PHOTO

6) Harris interactive poll charts. Retrieved from                                    CHART PHOTOS

7) Jensen, E. (2011, July-August). Big bird to the rescue?. Retrieved from

8) Neibergall, C. (2012, October 1). Presidential debate. LEHRER PHOTO

9) Paletta, D. (2012, August 11). What is the ‘ryan budget’?. Retrieved from

10) Pbs newshour. Retrieved from

11) WSJDigitalNetwork. (2012, October 3). Mitt romney loves big bird-presidential debate. Retrieved from


Broader Definition of Television

by Chelsea Vena

Public Television


No national public broadcasting service existed before the late 1960s. But by 1980 local public television stations formed the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) to support a strong and financially sound noncommercial television service. [1] 

The mission of APTS is to conduct – in convert with member stations – advocacy, planning, research and communications activities in order to achieve strong and financially sound noncommercial television and advanced digital services for American people. [2]

Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)

The CPB is a not-for-profit corporation that promotes the growth and development of public media in communities throughout America. CPB has been the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting and the largest single source of funding for public radio, television, and related online and mobile services. Though CPB produces no programming they make some programming available through PBS, NPR, American Public Media, and Public Radio International (PRI).  CPB helps support production of broadcast programs. CPB distributes more than 70 percent of its federal funds directly to stations throughout the country. [3]

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

PBS considers themselves “America’s largest classroom” as well as the “ nation’s largest stage for the arts and a trusted window to the world.” PBS has shows hundreds of original programs including news shows.  There are local PBS affiliates in most major markets. PBS Kids has had great success and has even launched kids educational video games, videos, “apps,” and activities for their shows.  PBS programming covers arts and entertainment, culture and society, health, history, home and how-to, news and public affairs, parents, science and nature, technology, and food. PBS gets its’ funding for these programs and their stations through member stations’ dues, the CPB, government agencies, foundations, corporations and private citizens. The government intervention in conducting public broadcasting has three major components: allocating spectrum, regulating sponsorship, and providing financial support. [4] [5]


Home Shopping

Short-form direct response: per inquiry

Per Inquiry advertising is an alternative to the traditional advertising seen on television. PI ads are run for “a fee based on the number of calls that are generated through a dedicated toll-free number that is exclusive to each station or network.” An independent telemarketing company is hired to track these calls. This type of advertising is used to test out ads whose company may not have the funds for a traditional advertising model. [6]


Many stations, including some of the largest networks, sell their overnight airtime for use as paid programming. It is a cheap alternative to airing original or syndicated programs. It is important to actually sell the product being advertised at the time the program airs since the infomercial provider needs to make up for the money spent on that time slot. The program must effectively demonstrate how the products work in an obvious and unique manner. Celebrity endorsements are often used as a selling tool as well. It is important to make sure your cost of goods are low and you have a good potential profit margin. Since direct response television deals with so many statistics in order to sell their product effectively, service firms have sprouted due to a need for data collection and analysis. [4]

Shopping Networks

The two major players in Home Shopping television networks are HSN (Home Shopping Network) and QVC (Quality, Value, Convenience). Though HSN was the first network to emerge, QVC has since become the industry leader. Both networks use their 24 hours a day for selling products over the airways. The majority of those sales are in jewelry, though they cover everything from home décor to sports equipment. HSN can be watched streaming from your computer or mobile device. QVC also has mobile apps to watch and purchase its’ programs and products. Last year, QVC received more than 181 million phone calls in the United States alone, and shipped 166 million units worldwide.” QVC presents more than 1,000 products each week. [4] [7] [8]

Government Regulation

Television shopping did not become possible until 1981 due to FTC regulations. However, with those restrictions changed shopping channels and infomercials are now commonplace and subject to the general FTC and FCC rules governing truthful advertising and sales.  As “ must-carry” laws are being revisited due to their inconsistency with the First Amendment, the carrying of home shopping networks could be threatened. [4] [9]

Religious Television

There are a number of religious television programs and networks on the air today. Christianity is the most common religious programming seen on television. Christian Television Ministries are nonprofit corporations whose main purpose is to spread the word of God. Their programs are often seen throughout the world. Religious television networks operate with a combination of broadcast and cable outlets. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is the world’s largest religious television channel. Over 5,000 television stations, 33 satellites, the Internet, and thousands of cable systems televise their programming. These programs and networks are also used to raise money for religious and educational purposes. Religious television is considered educational programming and operates under the same type of broadcast license as many public television stations. [4] [10]

Home Video

Video Rentals

Home video has changed significantly since the introduction of the VCR in 1976. From VCRs came DVDs and now we have Blue Ray for a higher quality viewing. Rentals of tapes, DVDs, and Blue Ray discs from a store (i.e. Blockbuster) have declined significantly over recent years. Redbox has become a popular way to rent movies and video games. Redbox is a fully automated video rental store in the form of a kiosk. There are more than 28,000 locations currently throughout the US. Customers are allowed to rent and return their DVDs to any location. Netflix is a very popular rental service that allows their subscribers to television episodes and movies streaming on their website or delivered to their home through the mail. Netflix charges its customers $7.99 a month for unlimited movies and shows. This approach has led Netflix to become the leading online subscription service streaming movies and TV episodes over the Internet. They currently have more than 25 million members globally. Cable and satellite providers also offer Video On Demand services to their customers. These services usually allow customers access to movies, television series, comedy shows, documentaries, and special programs for free or for an additional fee. [4] [11] [12]

Self-made Television

Today there are many ways that ordinary people create and share their own home videos through the Internet. With video cameras small enough to fit in your pocket, one your phone and in your computer, it has never been easier to create your own videos. Sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, and various blogs allow anyone to sign up and post homemade videos. These sites allow producers of any skill level to share their work and be recognized. These videos are can be seen by millions of people and sometimes get international recognition.

Streaming Television

Aside from those mentioned there are many other websites with video services. Streaming and downloading video has become a very popular way to watch television shows and movies. Streaming allows viewers convenience by giving them various mediums to watch their programming. Videos can be streamed from computers, tablets, mobile phones and through your television through Set-Top Boxes. Hulu, a popular streaming site, partners with various media companies to provide free streaming of movies and shows with some commercial interruption. Many networks also post their own shows a few days after the initial airing, usually containing some commercial interruption as well. Unfortunately there are many illegal sites as well that stream movies and shows at no cost to customers. Some channels, such as HBO, have launched program websites and apps specifically for their customers to access all of their videos straight from their computer or mobile device. Most HBO subscribers have access to HBOGO, a site and app where they can view past and current programs from HBO at no additional charge. [13] [14]

Vudu Set-top box


Digital and High-Def Television

Since 2009 the United States now broadcasts solely in digital television. Digital television (DTV) has many advantages over analog. For starters the picture is better quality on small and large screens. TV stations now have the ability to “ multicast” or broadcast several signals using the same bandwidth. Broadcasters can also include interactive content or additional information with the new signal. DTV also has the ability to support high-definition broadcasts. High-definition television (HGTV) is the top tier of digital signals. Most broadcast stations now have an HD channel as well as a standard digital channel. However, these channels can only be viewed if you have the right equipment: a way to receive the signal (antenna, cable, or satellite service) and an HDTV set. [15] [16]

DTV Format Comparison
Transmission Type
Analog Digital Digital Digital Digital
NTSC Standard Definition Standard Definition High Definition High Definition
Maximum Resolution 480i 480i 480p 720p 1080i
Aspect Ratio 4:3 4:3 4:3 or 16:9 16:9 16:9
Channel Capacity 1 5-6 5-6 1-2 1
Description Standard TV as we know it today Good Picture and Sound —DVD or DBS Quality Better, depending on source; can be outstanding Best Possible Best Possible



4. Blumenthal, H. J., & Goodenough, O. R. (2006). This Business of Television: The Standard Guide to the Television Industry (3rd Edition ed.). New York, New York, United States of America: Billboard Books.
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