From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act into law in 1967, he said its purpose was ‘to enrich man’s spirit.’ The Act established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – and provided funds for educational television and radio. More than four decades later, public broadcasting networks like NPR and PBS have influenced the lives of millions of Americans. But in today’s saturated media marketplace, some critics say public broadcasting has outlived both its mandate and the justification for continued public funding. Diane and her guests discuss the future of public broadcasting.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Generations of Americans have grown up watching "Sesame Street." The popular children's show that embodies public broadcasting's primary aims, to educate and entertain. When it premiered in the 1960s, there were few alternatives, now audiences have thousands of choices on cable, satellite radio and online. The latest effort to cut federal funding for public broadcasting has many viewers and listeners worried. Joining me in the studio to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing public television and radio today is Patricia Harrison of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Good morning to you, Patricia.
MS. PATRICIA HARRISONGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to have you here.
HARRISONOh, it's great to be here.
REHMThank you. Paula Kerger of the Public Broadcasting System, good morning to you.
MS. PAULA KERGERGood morning.
REHMAnd welcome to you, Vivian Schiller, CEO of NPR.
MS. VIVIAN SCHILLERThanks Diane, great to be here.
REHMIt's good to have you all here. Before we begin our conversation, I'd like to go back and hear Lyndon Johnson's remarks signing the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967.
PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSONThis corporation will assist stations and producers who aim for the best in broadcasting good music and broadcasting exciting plays and broadcasting reports on the whole fascinating range of human activity. It will try to prove that what educates can also be exciting. It will get part of its support from our government, but it will be carefully guarded from government or from party control. It will be free and it will be independent and it will belong to all of our people.
REHMAnd of course, that was then President Lyndon Johnson signing the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967. Patricia Harrison, let me turn to you and ask you, if you would, explain the current role of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
HARRISONThank you, Diane. And I'm happy to. We have -- CPB has a very critical and important role, but let me just say, it was wonderful to hear the words from Lyndon Johnson because he was a visionary in terms of what public media could mean to the American people and I think of the fact that we are all three here today, talking in different ways about the various aspects of public media, that we have fulfilled that promise.
HARRISONWe work very hard to ensure that public media continues to have a track record of proven benefits delivered to the American people. In terms of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as I said, we are the steward of the federal appropriation and I'd like your listeners to know that that represents less than one 25 of 1 percent of the federal government's discretionary spending.
REHMTell me what the dollar figure is.
HARRISONIt's $430 million for FY2011. We have the responsibility to be accountable for that money and we provide funding according to a formula to 1,300 public television and radio stations. And they in turn serve their very distinct communities with free -- and I want to underscore free, high quality, non-commercial programming that is created to inform, educate and entertain.
HARRISONNow, CPB has another role and again, it goes to accountability. We have as part of our mission to ensure this high quality content connects with underserved and unserved audiences. We are also tasked with investing in state of the art technologies so we can ensure we're delivering content in ways that a changing demographic wants to receive it. And today's audience is constantly on the move. And we are also tasked with taking that 30,000 foot view of public media, radio, television, online and in the community, so we're always involving and engaging with the American people. And today's public have the tools of communications in their hands.
REHMPatricia Harrison, she is CEO and president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Paula Kerger, turning to you, why are public television and public radio still necessary?
KERGERWell, I think we serve such an important role in communities on so many levels. First of all, when you look at public media -- and I'll talk specifically about public television, but the same is true of public radio. In most communities, the only remaining locally owned and operated broadcast media are public stations. The people that run those stations live in the communities, they think about the needs of the people in the communities and their sole focus is to serve.
KERGERAnd we're profoundly different than commercial media in that when we start out work on a project, on a documentary, on a series for the range of children's content that we produce, we start with the sole goal of figuring out the needs of the public and how we can fulfill them using media. We look at what the rest of the commercial marketplace is doing, we look for the gaps and it seems impossible, in some ways, to contemplate that with hundreds of television channels, that there would be areas that are not well served by commercial media, but there are. And so we build programs that fill those gaps.
KERGERAnd let me give you a couple of examples. High quality children's content that's tied to curriculum. There are many other people that are involved in producing children's programming. Some is quite fine, but no one is looking at building programming that's actually helping children develop basic skills so that they can enter school prepared to learn and that is the sole focus of the work that we're doing for children, both in broadcast as well as online.
KERGERWhen you look at what's happening in journalism today and you look at a lot of -- again, a lot of media outlets, but not a lot of places for the kind of discourse your program represents, the programs like "The News Hour" represents where we can talk about the important issues of the day and look at it from various sides and do it in a thoughtful and civil way.
REHMPaula Kerger, she's CEO and president of the Public Broadcasting System. Turning to you now, Vivian Schiller. Of that $430 million that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gets, television gets a certain portion, radio gets a certain portion. Can you give me a dollar figure that NPR receives from CPB?
SCHILLERThanks, Diane. About -- of the amount that Pat Harrison mentioned, that is CPB appropriates, about $90 million goes to public radio stations. That funding is critically important to the operation of those stations...
SCHILLERParticularly, it provides -- well, both in terms of the resources it provides depending on the market it can range from 10 percent to maybe 50 percent of the total operating budget for those stations particularly in underserved areas, the percentages tend to be larger. And it allows that station to continue to serve their community. But just as importantly, that public funding serves as an incentive for private investment.
SCHILLERThe public funding provides the base and the confidence for philanthropists, for foundations, for corporations in terms of underwriting and sponsorship to fund the necessary remaining part of what keeps all of those public radio stations on the air and serving their communities with news, information and cultural programming and content.
REHMPublic radio listening is going up, public television viewing is going down. What's happening, Paula Kerger?
KERGERWell, on the television side, actually, in the last couple of years, our audience has actually slightly increased and certainly for children, it has increased significantly. We have a number of the top 10 children's programs on the air and we also have an enormous number of people that are coming to us online. And so our audience is -- and in television, there are so many new options and so part of what every broadcaster is wrestling with is just a fractured market with an abundance of choice.
KERGERI think our audiences have remained constant because we are offering something that they cannot find in other places and although many of our commercial brethren are wrestling with issues of declining audience, for us, we have really been able to hold our own. And as I said, particularly in the kids area, where actually, our audience has increased significantly, particularly over the past year.
REHMAnd Vivian Schiller?
SCHILLERWell, it's absolutely true that listening to NPR member stations has increased every year for well over a decade. The total listening audience to NPR member stations is now -- this is radio alone, is 34 million and then another 17 million plus reaching the content on the web and on mobile platforms. And we reach -- it's perhaps surprising when many people hear that actually public radio stations reach more people every week than the total circulation of the top 170 newspapers around the country combined.
SCHILLERIt is -- it just to me speaks to the fact that we are a necessary resource for people who want to be educated, who want to be informed, who want to be entertained with our cultural programming and I think it speaks to the quality and to the civil discourse that Paula was referencing before.
REHMVivian Schiller, she's CEO and president of NPR, Paula Kerger is CEO and president of the Public Broadcasting System, Patricia Harrison is CEO and president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When we come back, we'll talk about challenges to public broadcasting from the Congress.
REHMWelcome back. If you've just joined us, three women who are at the heart of public broadcasting in this country are here in the studio with me. Vivian Schiller is CEO and president of NPR, Paula Kerger is CEO and president of the Public Broadcasting System and Patricia Harrison is CEO and president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Do join us, we will open the phone shortly, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to email@example.com, feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet.
REHMThere has been a great deal of discussion in the last few weeks specifically about whether the government should continue to fund public broadcasting with the number of listeners that you, Vivian Schiller, talked about and with the number of viewers that you, Paula Kerger, talked about. Why is it that public broadcasting cannot stand on its own without federal funding? Patricia Harrison.
HARRISONI don't think the question is why it couldn't stand alone, it is why with this particular, very American entrepreneurial public broadcasting service, how we are so different from any other public service in the world, how because of the small but vital amount that the federal government invests, how we're able to maximize that initial investment six times over and provide something of such incredible value to the American people.
HARRISONI want to say and have this opportunity to say that we do not view this federal appropriation as an entitlement. For decades, we continue to really view it as a responsibility. And what does it mean to the American taxpayer, approximately $1.35. In terms of the BBC per person, $82. Canada is around $30 and Japan around $60. So if Peter Drucker, my hero, because I used to be in business and I know about profit and loss and deficits, were alive today, I think they would be giving public media an award for making the dollar go so far in terms of true proven benefits to the American people.
HARRISONAnd let me just say one more thing, Diane. I was thinking about this a lot. Of course, as this new Congress, with so much responsibility facing deficits, they have an enormous challenge. We can be part of the answer. We're not part of the problem. And as a business owner in a previous life, I know that you can spend yourself into trouble and oblivion as represented by the deficit. But you can also cut in a way that really eliminates value, so we have to be very careful here.
REHMAnd to you, Vivian Schiller, I think Patricia is absolutely right when we talk about the current Congress, the current state of the economy, but you know as well as I do that this latest brouhaha has come about in connection with, but not exclusively related to, the firing of Juan Williams and the manner in which it was dealt, the outcry about liberal bias on the part of NPR. How do you respond to first, that notion that Juan Williams was fired because he expressed a personal view that was out of line with the NPR directive?
SCHILLERThanks, Diane. It certainly has been -- a lot of attention has been paid to the termination of Juan Williams' contract and it's never a comfortable place for a news organization to be in the news, but the fact is his contract as the external review has shown, the external review was conducted and commissioned by the NPR board, that, in fact, the termination of that contract was done under the terms of his contract, that there was no external influence. It was an internal personnel matter related to the nature of what our expectations were for the role of a news analyst.
SCHILLERWe embrace and support and demonstrate every hour of every day on NPR's programming the expression of a range of opinions and views. We celebrate that and you can't listen to an NPR program for more than a couple of minutes, indeed to your program, Diane, which we are so incredibly proud of, without hearing the range of views that help inform our audience so that they can have the full spectrum of ideas to be able to draw their own conclusions. And so that is what we embrace and that is what we embody.
REHMHow do you deal with the incredible outcry to cut public funding for NPR when it's coming from the Congress and specifically, if not solely, but specifically directed toward NPR?
SCHILLERWell, we're certainly aware of that to say the least and we take it very, very seriously and the answer is -- and that's why I'm so glad that you're having me on your program today, Diane, is to communicate who we are, what we stand for and how incredibly important we are in the lives of our 34 million listeners in communities across the country. And to the millions more that tune in to us online who are provided via NPR and NPR member stations and local information at the local stations, because we are a membership organization, who get news, who get information, who get perspective, who get cultural programming that they might not otherwise be able to get and always free.
REHMPaula Kerger, what would happen if public funding for public television were to disappear?
KERGERFor public television, the federal appropriation amounts to about 15 percent of our funding across the country. Now, that 15 percent is -- is not universally applied. Some of our stations, particularly in rural markets, the amount of federal funding would represent 40 to 50 percent of their budget. For those stations, it would be the end of public broadcasting. Other stations, where the amount of the federal appropriation is smaller, would still struggle, so I think that particularly in these times when we are working so carefully to efficiently use the money that we receive from the federal government that we leverage with other monies that our stations raise, that a cut on the federal side would be devastating to public broadcasting.
REHMBut Paula, what about the public fundraisers that both public television and public radio carry out? Isn't that enough?
KERGERIt's not -- and I think that what our stations have attempted to do is to really build an effective public, private partnership with the federal appropriation and so I think Pat Harrison said it quite correctly when she said that we do not feel that the public funding that comes into public broadcasting is an entitlement. We view the money that comes from the federal government as important seed money. It's the money that helps to pay the operating costs of our stations. Remember, the money comes to the stations and those stations then go out into their communities and remember, most of our public television stations, in fact all of them, were built by the communities.
KERGERAnd the thing that's important to remember about public television is that the largest percentage of money that comes in is, in fact, from individuals. People sit down to their kitchen tables every year and they write a check to their public television station for material that they get for free. They value it. The Roper organization has done a poll every year for the last seven years that has reported that the American public believe that their investment in PBS is second only to the investment in our nation's defense.
KERGERThey also believe that PBS is the most trusted of institutions. There actually was just a news poll out yesterday that again selected PBS as the trusted source for news and journalism. So I think that we are very much a fabric of the part of this country. And what Pat Harrison was referencing before is, as this country looks at significant issues -- and I really sympathize with this Congress that has come in, it is wrestling with such hard issues, that some of the areas that our country really needs to pay attention to, education is an area where public television is, in fact, a partner in helping to come up with the solutions. And so this is a moment for all of us to work together and to lean forward.
REHMAnd joining us now from his office here in Washington is Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas. Thanks for joining us, sir.
MR. KEVIN BRADYThank you, Diane. Thanks for having me.
REHMCongressman Brady, tell us about the CUTS Act?
BRADYWell, what it is, this is an effort to try to somehow get back on a path to a balanced budget. As you know, we're running a trillion plus deficit each and every year and according to some estimates, may do that for the next decade. We're digging ourselves as a nation into a hole so deep that it's going to affect our economy and clearly affect future opportunities for our young people. And so I'm determined to help at least come up with solutions to start us back on that path knowing that the CUTS Act itself won't do it, but many of these are recommendations that came from the president's desk, the Reduction Commission.
BRADYOthers came from initiatives from President Bush and President Obama. These are serious cuts reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition over time is one of them, shrinking the defense budget by $60 billion just in its procurement alone. I'm strong on defense, it's one of my, frankly, most critical agencies, but I'm also convinced every agency is inefficient and can do more with less and so, you know, I'm insisting that they buy 15 percent more efficiently, everything from equipment to supplies to weapons systems.
BRADYAnd so we are, we have identified a number of programs and agencies by, but I have to tell you, this is just a down payment.
REHMAnd I understand that the CUTS Act includes an elimination of funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. Tell us why?
BRADYWell, because simply, we can't afford it anymore. We're in, as I said, $1.4 trillion deficit just this year alone. Those record deficits will continue. We're getting dangerously close to a debt limit that we can't sustain and if interest rates go up, we're going to be in a world of hurt. In fact, right now, our budget is so overspent that you could reduce everything, including the Department of Defense, every program and agency, except for social security and Medicare and we would be barely at break even...
BRADYAnd so it's not an issue of the value of NPR because in truth, you know, your programming in many ways is wonderful. It reaches 98 percent of Americans. I have a world community as well as a suburban community. Our Houston region is well represented through NPR. The question is how can we get back to a country that has its financial house in order without making difficult cuts? And unfortunately, NPR is one of them.
REHMI think there is another question, Congressman Brady. Is the cut to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which, as you have already heard Patricia Harrison say, is in the amount of $430 million, is it truly about funding or is it about politics and programming?
BRADYWell, from my standpoint, it is about getting back to a balanced budget and making the tough decisions to do that. And I will tell you, in the CUTS Act, you know, we are reducing you know, a number Core of Engineers' lower value projects. We're slowing the growth of foreign aid. We're eliminating Safe and Drug-Free Schools, not because it's not a nice program, it is. I have -- our two boys are in the public schools, but we simply can't afford that anymore. You know, I wish -- I think you know it may be different, but NPR listeners and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting viewers, I think, are discerning viewers who understand frankly, we've got ourselves in a mess as a nation fiscally and that we're going to have to make some tough decisions.
BRADYAnd I'm just telling you as honestly as I can that these cuts and more will have to be made over time.
REHMNow, what about your own relationship with Texas public television and radio stations?
BRADYWell, in the Houston region, we're pretty pleased with our group. We have a good relationship with the radio station and I believe have toured one of the television stations located at the university and it's very positive.
REHMAnd what do you think would happen if funding for public broadcasting were completely eliminated? What do you think would happen to your own Houston or Texas...
BRADYWell, we've actually looked into funding for that. My thought is two-fold because CPB has such a strong fundraising arm, is well respected, you know, corporations already are strong supporters of the donations to support it, as well as individuals support public broadcasting, so and since it is, I think the federal figure is about 15 percent thereabouts of the total budget. Obviously, that will have to be made up in the private sector, which I think, frankly, with your programming reputation, you can.
BRADYThe other option, of course, is what every business in America has had to do which is to do more with less. I know of no company that's survived this recession without having to make some, to be more productive on smaller sales and in your case that mirrors it.
REHMAnd what about the notion that government money provides seed money for corporations for individuals to continue to contribute to public broadcasting? If that goes away how do you support those stations out in the Midwest who have barely enough to survive?
BRADYI think it will be up to the leadership of the corporation to set priorities as businesses do on what is most important. Find ways to fund the priorities first. If there are new revenues needed you're going to have to make a larger effort to do that and again, if you can find some other way to get this financial mess in order, I would welcome those ideas.
REHMCongressman Kevin Brady of Texas, thanks for joining us.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, we have three people here in the studio, Vivian Schiller of NPR, Paula Kerger of the Public Broadcasting System, Patricia Harrison, she's CEO and President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Before we go any further, I want to ask you about the statements that Congressman Brady made, Pat Harrison, in regard to the so-called funding arm that CPB has and ability to raise money.
HARRISONThank you, Diane. I'm very appreciative that the congressman spoke to this. It's clear he understands public media in the Texas area. And he raises some very, very good points. And I think public media is at fault. We're so busy providing this high quality content that we really haven't taken the time to communicate about the depth and breadth -- distinct things of what we do for the American people. So to address his point, CPB does not have any fundraising arm.
REHMComes straight from the federal government.
HARRISONYes. And we -- as I said earlier, there are checks and balances on how we distribute this money. We have to report about where it goes. If you defund public media, it becomes commercial media.
REHMI want to -- our listeners to know that the producer on this program, Susan Nabors, made at least 30 telephone calls before she could find a member of Congress willing to come on the program to talk about defunding of PBS and NPR. It was a long effort.
HARRISONDiane, may I just add one more thing? Because we do have a communication challenge here and I think it's a valid one. When people have questions they deserve answers. I want the congressman to know that we are doing so much more with less right now. We're all going through this economy -- at a local level people wondering about the American dream. We have a deficit in this country of education, of civility and this is where public media is part of the solution.
REHMAnd here is an e-mail from Phillip who says, "I am a member of my local NPR and PBS stations. However, one of my major concerns is that salaries of many of both national and local broadcasters," and Phillip cites, "Scott Simon, Steve Inskeep, Ira Glass," as some examples, "are outrageous for nonprofit agencies." How do you respond, Vivian?
SCHILLERThanks, Diane. Actually, having worked at other media organizations -- commercial media organizations -- before I came to NPR two years ago, I can tell you that our budget is a fraction -- a fraction -- of what the commercial media companies spend to deliver -- to deliver services that reach fewer Americans than, certainly, NPR member stations. And then if you add in and combine that with the viewership to PBS it is -- it's not even close. So we are doing more with less. We have had cuts at the NPR -- in the NPR budget of shows in the last two years and, yet, our audience continues to grow. We continue to find efficiencies and we deliver incredible coverage from around the world.
SCHILLERForeign reporting, which most other news organizations have abandoned, is just one example for cost. And we are doing it at a fraction of the cost of other media organizations because it is a public service. And always, we deliver it to our audience for free.
REHMSpeak to the issue of salaries.
SCHILLERSalaries are, again, coming from the commercial news media world, I can assure you, because we are a not for profit our salaries are published. That's not always the case with commercial hosts and anchors. Again, they are a fraction of what most national news anchors and hosts are paid in the commercial sector.
REHMAll right. Let's go to the phones to Roy in Syracuse, N.Y. Good morning, you're on the air.
ROYHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
ROYFirst, I have to tell you I grew up with NPR. I came home from school and turned on NPR radio and that's what I grew up with. But I have to tell you, for the first time in my life, I'm actually in favor -- I'm thinking of calling my congressman of defunding NPR. It has nothing to do with the content. WBUR, WBEC, KQED, you can go on and on. The stations are incredible. It's about this -- this Juan Williams thing. He gave a personal opinion on another station, Cokie Roberts and Mara Liasson do that all the time and no -- no -- nothing comes down about that. And there was no outcry from the stations I just mentioned. WAMU, KQED, WBEC, my champions, the people I grew up with were silent.
ROYAnd the only way that can happen is if so-called internal personnel matter was not so internal but, basically, from on-high and, basically, if someone told everybody to be quiet.
ROYNow, that said, I know you can't compare, but we do, because I used to live in Canada. The CBC and the BBC are totally different organizations. They get government funding because those companies and those countries work differently. They have a much bigger government presence in media. We like to keep things separate because it's opinion. The only other exception, and you might want to comment on this, is C-SPAN. C-SPAN is funded by the providers. They have to pay C-SPAN to be a presence. And I listen to C-SPAN all the time. C-SPAN radio and C-SPAN on Sunday morning is great, great content and it's very, very, very careful. They don't do anything about opinions.
REHMAll right, Roy, thanks so much for your call. One correction, the day after Juan Williams was fired, he was on this program for an hour. Vivian.
SCHILLERDiane, I say -- I think the statement you just made says it all. We want and do everyday provide a range of opinions on our shows. Roy, I hope you will continue to support us and that you are listening because you will hear views from across the board on every issue. We are -- we silence no one. In fact, on the contrary, we embrace the notion of offering a range of views on our air. There has been, sadly for everybody involved, there's been a lot of misunderstanding about the termination of Juan Williams' contract. It had solely to do -- I have no issue whatsoever with his comments -- it had solely to do with his role as a news analyst on NPR and the compatibility of that role and his outside roles.
SCHILLERAnd, in fact, we are doing -- undertaking a review right now internally at NPR that will be finished in the next couple of months so that we can discuss -- codify -- we are getting input from the public to make sure that we are very clear on the role of commentators and journalists on NPR -- on NPR member stations -- so that there is -- there's no confusion whatsoever going forward about those roles.
REHMAnd Paula Kerger, I must say I can certainly recall programs on PBS where the same kind of outcry has come against certain programs that have been broadcast on public television.
KERGERI don't know that we have had -- well, we've not had a situation like Juan Williams. What we have had from time to time is -- because we are independent media, we do cover a range of topics and if we're doing our job right, then we will be reporting on issues that may make some people uncomfortable. So yes, we do try to look at our work as being and reporting and doing programs that commercial media shies away from. You look at series like "Frontline." You look at some of the work that we've done -- we just did a series on the calling of people that are contemplating a life in religion. And there is not a lot of programming on religion on commercial television.
KERGERI think these are the kinds of issues -- "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly," which is a regular series on public television. There are many projects that we undertake because they are important issues. They are issues that should be out -- out for public discourse and if we generate a lot of discussion, then we've done our job.
REHMTo Indianapolis, good morning, Bill.
BILLHi, good morning. I guess I'll be the flipside to the previous caller. Just two quick comments, there has been a huge propaganda campaign against both PBS and NPR from a fake news organization known as Fox News. And several years ago when Fox News needed credibility, they were able to hire two journalists who are willing to disgrace themselves, in my view, Mara Liasson and Juan Williams, and sell their souls out to this fake news organization. And I think that the mistake that NPR made was that when they did that -- when they did that, they should have been fired then.
REHMWhat do you think, Vivian?
SCHILLERWell, we -- you know, we have incredible journalists throughout NPR and we're thrilled that our audience continues to grow of people that listen to NPR member stations, but it's also good for us, occasionally, to have our reporters share what they know with audiences on other services. And so that's part of the spirit when a reporter comes back from say, we have two reporters right now covering Tunisia, when they come back from their trip they might be on other media talking about what they've learned as NPR reporters. So we do like to share what we know because we're not in this for the profit. We're here for the public service so we like our reporters to share with them what they know.
REHMBut an awful of lot of people have made that comparison between Juan Williams, Mara Liasson why she remains a commentator analyst on Fox News and Juan Williams was fired because of a comment he made to Bill O'Reilly.
SCHILLERWell, two points on that. First of all, our expectation for our reporters is that they would -- they represent themselves with the highest standards of -- the highest journalistic standards whether they, of course, if they're on NPR and if they are on any other news organization. So that is the standard of objective reporting and news analysis that they don't offer their opinions or their point of view…
REHMBut doesn't Mara offer her opinions?
SCHILLERShe actually provides news analysis. She doesn't say, I believe this should happen, this is what I support, this is how I feel. That is the primary different, but we are also -- as I mentioned to the previous caller, we are undertaking a review to make sure that our standards and our approach to these kind of positions are clear, consistent, up to date and broadly known. So stay tuned for that.
REHMAll right, to Columbia, Mo. Brendan, you're on the air.
BRENDANIn 1994, PBS had its highest ratings with "Tales of the City" and that became an issue in funding and Congress. And it seems like PBS chose to forego private donors who are excited and watching the channel to go with the funding from the government and compromise content. And in fact, the "Tales of the City" producers went to cable and produced programs that became -- enriched the cable companies over the past 15 years. And it seems like PBS lost a great opportunity then.
KERGERWell, I wasn't running PBS in 1994. I will tell you that when we look at the programming that we bring to the American public, we don't shy away from programs that we feel are important and would serve the public. And, you know, our commitment is -- you know, for a range of programs. And one area that we are deeply committed to is the arts. As you look across the programming dial, you know, there are many cable companies like Bravo and A&E -- many people forget that A&E used to once stand for arts and entertainment -- you know, took a run at trying to produce arts programming -- serious arts programming and that has disappeared.
KERGERAnd so we feel that it is important to showcase great art that's happening around the country and to do that we're looking at a breadth of programs that will inspire and entertain but that also will be provocative. And I think that's part of what PBS is attempting to do with its work that we have underway.
REHMPaula Kerger, she's CEO and President of the Public Broadcasting System. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Going forward in this environment, what is your job, Pat?
HARRISONMy job every single day -- and for me it's a mission, that I think is worthy of anybody who would be in this job, is to strengthen and advance public media not to serve ourselves but to continue to serve the American people at a time when they desperately need us the most.
REHMWhy do they need to have public radio and public television funded by the government?
HARRISONBecause in this environment -- and this is what we hear all the time -- of 800 plus, let's make it a 1,000 plus channels, bringing things into our home that we can choose to watch or not watch. But things that do not inspire, do not educate, do not inform, if we care about our civil society, if we care about or democracy, let's have a vibrant commercial television and radio system, but an equally vibrant public broadcasting system.
KERGERI think our goal moving forward is to do what Pat has just described, which is ensure that we have a robust system, but, I think the other thing that is very clear to us is to make sure that everyone is informed of the value of what we provide. And that, I think, is critical as we move forward.
REHMAnd to you, Vivian.
SCHILLEROur goal is very clear, is to provide more news and information and cultural content to more people in more ways. Our hearken back to the Lyndon Johnson's words that opened this program or opened this hour, Diane, which is to provide the fascinating range of human activity that is more important today than ever. Those are his words, that it is free, that it is independent and that it belongs to all of our people. His words and the purpose of the creation of public broadcasting are more important today than they ever have been before to keep this citizenry informed, inspired, educated and entertained.
REHMAnd will you all be up on the hill? Will you be talking with members of Congress?
HARRISONWe're picking out our outfits now.
SCHILLERYes, we will. But I think more important than us, I think, is the voice of the American people. And that, I think, is every time public broadcasting has come under fire it's really been the voice of the American people that has been so resonant.
HARRISONAnd there're 170 million of them.
REHMVivian Schiller, she's CEO and President of NPR, Paula Kerger, CEO and President of the Public Broadcasting System and Patricia Harrison, CEO and President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I thank you all for being here this morning.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
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