"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.
—Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Pressing Issues
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:
Shows aired on PBS include:
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Live-Action TV — Documentary
Live-Action TV — Fiction
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