"I'm talking about hopes, dreams—the magic of television! Especially public television. Puppets can say what men cannot."The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is America's publicly-owned TV network, though its history dates back much further than the government's involvement with it. It is not so much a traditional network as a consortium of non-commercial, educational TV stations.
—Callum Crashaw, Pressing Issues (GTA Radio)
The NET era (1952–1970)PBS' first incarnation was the Educational Television and Radio Center in 1952, originally a private network set up by the Ford Foundation's Fund for Adult Education in order to serve as an educational television service complementing the entertainment programming of the commercial networks. Unique among American networks, content was produced not by the network itself, but by the individual stations — a model similar to that of the (then West-) German public broadcasting, which had been imposed on them at the end of World War II by the Western Allies. This led to content that was very in-depth in its subject matter, but also very dry, academic, low-budget and dull. As a result, ETRC floundered in its early years, earning the nickname "The University of the Air".In 1958, ETRC changed its name to National Educational Television and Radio Center (NETRC), and then to just National Educational Television (NET) in 1963. Under new network president John F. White (formerly the station manager at WQED in Pittsburgh), it tried to shake off its ultra-academic reputation and become America's "fourth network". It expanded from five hours of programming a day to 10, imported shows from The BBC and other international networks to fill those hours, and became more centralized. It created a slew of programming, such as the adult drama program NET Playhouse, the seminal children's show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and a hard-hitting, controversial TV Documentary series called NET Journal that frequently explored social issues like poverty and prejudice. This last program outraged NET's more conservative affiliates, especially those in the Southern United States, and despite its critical acclaim would lead to the network's downfall once it became government-funded.In 1967 the Ford Foundation, having invested over $130 million into a network that was still dependent on their contributions and grants, started to consider pulling its funding, causing many affiliate stations to consider turning to the federal government for financial assistance. As a result, the government passed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a semi-privatenote corporation to fund NET. While it did this for a few years, it soon became clear that NET's documentary programming had not only alienated many of its affiliates, but also infuriated Richard Nixon, who saw the documentaries as nothing more than propaganda against his administration. As a result, the CPB created the Public Broadcasting Service in 1969 as a new entity to take over network operations, and in 1970 NET was dissolved and merged into WNDT in Newark, New Jersey (which became WNET), ending its existence as a formal network. NET's decentralized system was retained by PBS, largely because the existing commercial networks and conservatives in Congress did not want an American version of the BBC.
The PBS era (1970–present)PBS has gone largely unchanged since then. Programming and the stations themselves are sponsored by donations from corporations, charitable foundations and Viewers Like You. The federal government chips in, as well, by means of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which also funds NPR and public-radio programs. Instead of interrupting programs with commercials, PBS stations run a sponsor tag at the start and end of each program, and hype their other programs during a five-minute break at the end of each show. For a week or two every however-many months, they also run a pledge drive, during which viewers are asked to donate money to help the station stay on the air. This is usually when they drag out their highest quality programs, such as concerts by the Grateful Dead and David Gilmour, and performances from the Austin City Limits festival, though this is also where you'll see endless self-help and financial gurus; it's just a matter of getting through the lengthy pledge breaks or predicting when they will end and put up the next show. Some stations take off programming for a few days to air an auction of products, services and trips where funding goes to the station, or "friends" of the station, a concept where an outside third party or an board is the one who makes programming purchase and scheduling decisions rather than station personnel.In 2011, PBS launched a UK cable and satellite channel, carrying a broad cross section of its U.S. programming.Each PBS station sets its own schedule with a mix of local productions, national programs and foreign imports, but they tend to follow a rough pattern with their scheduling:
- Children's shows in the daytime. Over the years, this block, known as PBS Kids since 1993, has included Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, WordGirl, Bill Nye the Science Guy, The Magic School Bus, Arthur, Dragon Tales, Barney & Friends and Teletubbies. PBS has generally placed a strong emphasis on education and Aesops with its kids' shows, even when children's programming on other networks started getting more geared towards selling toys. People who grew up before children's programming started proliferating on cable (or even after, if they had parents who objected to the Merchandise-Driven nature of many Saturday morning cartoons) were probably raised on PBS.
- News in the early evening. Their main news programs are the PBS NewsHour nightly newscastnote and the award-winning Frontline documentary series (not to be confused with the Australian series). Nearly all stations also run the Nightly Business Report. Some stations also air BBC World News America, and a few stations might air local news broadcasts, such as WNET in NYC, which, as a result of being licensed to Newark, NJ, must air semi-sister station NJTV's nightly news broadcasts.
- Prime Time brings entertainment for mature viewers, such as Masterpiece and Antiques Roadshow, along with science documentaries such as NOVA and Nature.
- Saturdays and Sundays usually bring out content meant for older audiences, such as repeats of The Lawrence Welk Show and BritComs such as Are You Being Served?, and Keeping Up Appearances that have been run so much by the stations that the tape is probably nearly worn out by this point. Various Cooking Shows also may be featured, particularly in the afternoons.
Shows aired on PBS stations note include:
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- PBS Idea Channel
- PBS Kids (the channel's famous children's programming block)
- Sprout (digital cable channel it formerly co-owned)
Live-Action TV — Documentary
Live-Action TV — Fiction
- Are You Being Served?
- Blake's 7
- Call the Midwife
- Death in Paradise
- Doctor Who note
- Downton Abbey
- Fawlty Towers
- Hollywood Television Theatre
- House of Cards (UK)
- Inspector Morse
- Keeping Up Appearances
- Mercy Street
- Monty Python's Flying Circusnote
- Red Dwarf
- Spooks (as MI-5)
- Upstairs Downstairs
- Yes, Minister
Live-Action TV — Other
Anime and Manga
Of course, this page wouldn't be complete without a list of anime broadcast by certain affiliates, including, most prominently, KQED Plus. These include: