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CPB and Editorial Independence

May 26 2005 by Peter Morrill

Over the last few weeks, we've had a number of phone calls, emails and letters from concerned viewers about the national press coverage on the political turmoil at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I want you to know that we here at Idaho Public Television share these concerns about the potential for politicization of CPB and public broadcasting in general and we are monitoring the situation very closely.

A little history is in order. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created through an Act of Congress in 1967, to serve as the designated entity to receive federal funds to aid local public television and radio stations nationwide. It was also the intent of Congress that CPB be a "heat shield" between the federal government and our nationwide system of locally owned and operated public television and radio stations.

Since the beginning, public television's editorial independence has been at the core of our mission to:

  • provide a place where all points of view can be expressed;
  • help educate learners of all ages;
  • create a safe haven for children;
  • offer programming that engages, enlightens and inspires; and
  • reach beyond the screen to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

Here in Idaho, our governing Board of Directors, the Idaho State Board of Education, adopted in 1987, and then re-adopted in 2002, The Articles of Editorial Integrity and PBS Programming and Underwriting Guidelines (these documents are available upon request), to ensure that the programs and services that we obtain from program providers such as PBS, American Public Television, BBC and independent producers all achieve the highest editorial and quality standards. And that goes for our own locally produced programs, as well.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Roper organization, the American public believes that PBS programming is the most trustworthy of all media. Another study conducted by CPB showed that 79% of Americans believe that PBS does not have a liberal bias.

By federal law, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is forbidden to dictate to local public television and radio stations what we broadcast. Those decisions are the exclusive responsibility of each local station. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting does make a yearly grant of $840,000, or 14% of IdahoPTV's operating budget. That grant comes to Idaho Public Television with no strings attached, other than to operate our statewide service in an established, non-commercial manner meeting appropriate FCC guidelines.

CPB also makes large grants of support to many well known PBS and NPR programs such as the NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, NOVA, and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, to mention just a few.

Naturally, I hope that you will continue to support Idaho Public Television during these challenging times. I am hopeful that our heat shield will not let us down, and that the many men and women working at CPB and PBS will continue to support editorial independence.

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