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(Wikipedia) - PBS   (Redirected from Pbs.org) Not to be confused with Public Broadcasting Services in Malta, Public Broadcast Service in Barbados, or Philippine Broadcasting Service in the Philippines; for other uses, see PBS (disambiguation). Public Broadcasting Service Type Country Availability Slogan Headquarters Key peopleLaunch dateFormer namesOfficial website
Broadcast television distributor
United States
Be More (current) This is PBS (secondary)
2100 Crystal Drive Arlington, Virginia 22202
Paula Kerger (President and CEO) Afsaneh Beschloss Director
October 5, 1970; 44 years ago (October 5, 1970)
National Educational Television (1952–1970)

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American broadcast television program distributor. The non-profit public broadcaster has 354 member television stations, many of which are owned by educational institutions or by non-profit groups affiliated with a local school or university or by state-government owned or related entities. PBS''s headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia.

PBS is the most prominent provider of television programs to public television stations in the United States, distributing series such as NOVA, Sesame Street, PBS NewsHour, Masterpiece, Nature, American Masters, Frontline, and Antiques Roadshow. Since the mid-2000s, Roper polls commissioned by PBS have consistently placed the service as America''s most-trusted national institution. However, PBS is not responsible for all programming carried on public TV stations; in fact, stations usually receive a large portion of their content (including most pledge drive specials) from third-party sources, such as WGBH, American Public Television, WETA-TV, WNET, WTTW National Productions and independent producers. This distinction is a frequent source of viewer confusion.

PBS also has a subsidiary called National Datacast (NDI), which offers datacasting services via member stations; this helps PBS and its member stations earn extra revenue.

  • 1 Overview
  • 2 Programming
    • 2.1 Primetime
    • 2.2 PBS Kids
    • 2.3 Sports
    • 2.4 Participating stations
  • 3 PBS networks
    • 3.1 Independent networks
  • 4 Criticism and controversy
    • 4.1 On-the-air fundraising
    • 4.2 Accusations of political/ideological bias
  • 5 Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN)
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading
  • 9 External links


PBS was founded by Hartford N. Gunn Jr. on October 5, 1970, at which time it took over many of the functions of its predecessor, National Educational Television (NET), which later merged with New York City area station WNDT to form WNET. In 1973, it merged with Educational Television Stations.

Unlike ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the CW—America''s main commercial broadcast television networks—PBS is not a network but rather a program distributor that makes programs available to their members.

In a TV network structure, affiliates give up portions of their local advertising airtime in exchange for network programming and the network pays its affiliates a share of the revenue it earns from advertising. By contrast, PBS member stations pay fees for the shows acquired and distributed by the national organization. This relationship means that PBS member stations have greater latitude in local scheduling than their commercial broadcasting counterparts. Scheduling of PBS-distributed series may vary greatly depending on the market. This can be a source of tension as stations seek to preserve their localism, and PBS strives to market a consistent national lineup. However, PBS has a policy of "common carriage," which requires most stations to clear the national prime-time programs on a common programming schedule to market them nationally more effectively. Management at KCET in Los Angeles cited unresolvable financial and programming disputes among its major reasons for leaving PBS after over 40 years in 2012.

Unlike its radio counterpart, National Public Radio, PBS has no central program production arm or news department. All of the programming carried by PBS, whether news, documentary, or entertainment, is created by (or in most cases produced under contract with) other parties, such as individual member stations. WGBH in Boston is one of the largest producers of educational television programming, including American Experience, Masterpiece Theatre, Nova, Antiques Roadshow and Frontline, as well as many other children''s and lifestyle shows. News programs are produced by WETA-TV (PBS Newshour) in Washington, D.C., WNET in New York and WPBT in Miami. The Charlie Rose interview show, Secrets of the Dead, Nature, and Cyberchase come from or through WNET in New York. Once PBS accepts a program offered for distribution, PBS (and not the member station that supplied the program) retains exclusive rebroadcasts rights during an agreed period. Suppliers retain the right to sell the program in non-broadcast media such as DVDs, books, and sometimes PBS licensed merchandise (but sometimes grant such ancillary rights as well to PBS).

PBS stations are commonly operated by non-profit organizations, state agencies, local authorities (such as municipal boards of education), or universities in their city of license. In some U.S. states, a group of PBS stations throughout the entire state may be organized into a single regional "subnetwork" called a state network (such as Alabama Public Television and the Arkansas Educational Television Network); some states may be served by such a regional network and simultaneously have PBS member stations in a certain city of license that operates autonomously from the regional member network. As opposed to the present commercial broadcasting model in which network programs are often carried exclusively on one television station in a given market, PBS may maintain more than one member station in certain markets (for example, KOCE-TV, KLCS and KVCR-DT serve as PBS stations for the Los Angeles market), which may be owned by the licensee of the market''s primary PBS member station or owned separately from that station. In markets where more than one member station exists, the amount of PBS programs are divided between the stations through the network''s Program Differentiation Plan; the primary PBS member often carries a larger portion of the PBS schedule than the secondary members in these markets under the plan. Unlike public broadcasters in most other countries, PBS does not own any of the stations that broadcast its programming (in context, there are no PBS owned-and-operated stations anywhere in the country). This is partly due to the origins of the PBS stations themselves, and partly due to historical broadcast license issues.

In the modern broadcast marketplace, some media critics consider this organizational structure outmoded. A common restructuring proposal is to reorganize the network so that each state has one PBS member that broadcasts statewide. However, this proposal is controversial, as it would reduce local community input into PBS programming, especially considering how PBS stations are significantly more community-oriented—according to the argument—than commercial broadcaster counterparts.

In 1991, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting resumed production for most PBS shows that debuted before 1977, the only exceptions were Washington Week in Review and Wall Street Week which did not resume production (CPB resumed production of Washington Week in 1997).

In 1994, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study on the popularity and credibility of charitable and non-profit organizations. The study showed that PBS was ranked as the 11th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" from over 100 charities researched, with 38.2% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing "love" and "like a lot" for PBS.

In December 2009, PBS signed up for the Nielsen ratings audience measurement reports for the first time. On May 8, 2013, PBS as well as PBS Kids programs were made available through the Roku streaming player.

Programming Main article: List of programs broadcast by PBS

PBS stations are known for rebroadcasting British television costume dramas and comedies (acquired from the BBC and other sources); consequently, it has been joked that PBS means "Primarily British Series". However, a significant amount of sharing takes place. The BBC and British broadcasters such as Channel 4 often cooperate with PBS stations, producing material that is shown on both sides of the Atlantic. Less frequently, Canadian, Australian and other international programming appears on PBS stations (such as The Red Green Show, currently distributed by syndicator Executive Program Services); the public broadcasting syndicators are more likely to offer this programming to the U.S. public stations. PBS stations are also known for broadcasting British comedy and science fiction programs such as ''Allo ''Allo!, Are You Being Served?, The Benny Hill Show, Doctor Who, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Father Ted, Fawlty Towers, Harry Enfield and Chums, Keeping Up Appearances, Monty Python''s Flying Circus, Mr. Bean and Red Dwarf.

PBS is not the only distributor of public television programming to the member stations. Other distributors have emerged from the roots of the old companies that had loosely held regional public television stations in the 1960s. Boston-based American Public Television (former names include Eastern Educational Network and American Program Service) is second only to PBS for distributing programs to U.S. non-commercial stations. Another distributor is NETA (formerly SECA), whose properties have included The Shapies and Jerry Yarnell School of Fine Art. In addition, the member stations themselves also produce a variety of local shows, some of which subsequently receive national distribution through PBS or the other distributors.

Rerun programming is generally uncommon on PBS or its member stations, with some exceptions. The Lawrence Welk Show has run continuously in reruns on PBS (through the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority) almost every weekend since 1986. Other reruns are generally from past PBS series whose hosts have retired or died (for instance, The Joy of Painting and Mister Rogers'' Neighborhood).


The evening and primetime schedule on PBS features a diverse array of programming:

  • Fine arts (Great Performances)
  • Drama (Masterpiece, Downton Abbey, American Family: Journey of Dreams)
  • Science (Nova, Nature)
  • History (American Experience, American Masters, History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow)
  • Music (Austin City Limits, Soundstage)
  • Public affairs (Frontline, PBS NewsHour, Washington Week)
  • Independent film (P.O.V., Independent Lens)
  • Home improvement (This Old House)
  • Interviews (Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, The Dick Cavett Show)
PBS Kids Main article: PBS Kids

Launched in 1994, PBS Kids is the brand for children''s programs aired by PBS. The PBS Kids network, which was established in 1999 and ran for seven years, was largely funded by DirecTV. The channel ceased operations on October 1, 2005, in favor of a new joint commercial venture, the digital cable and satellite television channel Sprout. Sprout was later acquired in full by NBCUniversal. However, the original programming block still exists on PBS.

PBS Kids has imported British children''s series from the BBC and ITV (for example, Rosie and Jim, Tots TV, Teletubbies, Boohbah, and Thomas the Tank Engine), as well as children''s shows from Canada (such as Theodore Tugboat). On June 4, 2007, many PBS stations cleared the syndicated offering of the imported Australian children''s television series Raggs. Some of the programs have subsequently been syndicated to commercial television outlets (such as Ghostwriter and The Magic School Bus).

Big Bird of Sesame Street.Sports

Many PBS member stations, including Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, and WKYU-TV, locally broadcast high school and college sports. From the 1980s onward, the national PBS network has not typically carried sporting events, mainly because the cost of most sports broadcast rights have become prohibitive in that timeframe, especially for nonprofits with limited revenue potential, and starting with the 2006 launch of the MountainWest Sports Network and 2007 launch of the Big Ten Network, athletic conferences have taken local sports rights for their cable channels, restricting their use from PBS member stations, even those associated with their own university.

From 1976 to 1988, KQED produced a series of Bundesliga matches as Soccer Made in Germany, with Toby Charles announcing. PBS also carried tennis events, as well as Ivy League football. Notable football commentators included Upton Bell, Marty Glickman, Bob Casciola, Brian Dowling, Sean McDonough, and Jack Corrigan. Other sports programs included interview series such as The Way It Was and The Sporting Life.

Participating stations Main article: List of PBS member stations

Most PBS member stations have produced at least some nationally distributed programs. Current regularly scheduled programming on the PBS national feed is produced by a smaller group of stations, including:

  • WMPT (MotorWeek)
  • WGBH-TV (Arthur, NOVA, Masterpiece, Frontline etc.)
  • WNET (Charlie Rose, Nature, PBS NewsHour, etc.)
  • WETA-TV (PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, etc.)
  • KLRU (Austin City Limits)
  • Oregon Public Broadcasting (History Detectives)
PBS networks Network Notes
Sprout began September 26, 2005; a commercial cable venture. formerly PBS Kids Sprout. As of 2013, the channel has been fully acquired by NBCUniversal and renamed Sprout.
PBS-HD HDTV feed to member stations
PBS Satellite Service 24-hour alternate network that provides a mixed variety of programming selected from PBS''s regular network service, as well as for carriage on packaged satellite providers

PBS has spun off a number of television networks, often in partnership with other media companies. PBS YOU was offered until January 2006, and was largely succeeded by American Public Television''s Create; PBS Kids was replaced with Sprout at the start of October 2005. PBS World started operations in 2007 as PBS service, but is now managed by American Public Television.

PBS has also restructured its satellite feed system, simplifying PBS-DT2 into an western timeshift feed, rather than a high-definition complement to its formerly primary SD feed. A proposed network, PBS Kids Go! was cancelled in 2006.

Some or all are available on many digital cable systems, on free-to-air (FTA) TV via communications satellites, as well as via direct broadcast satellite. Programming from the PBS Satellite Service has also been carried by certain member stations or regional member networks to fill their overnight schedules (particularly those that have transitioned to a 24-hour schedule since the late 1990s), in lieu of providing their own programming sourced by outside public television distributors and repeats of local programming. With the transition to over-the-air digital television broadcasts, many are also often now available as "multiplexed" (multicasting) channels on some local stations'' standard-definition digital signals, while DT2 is found among the HD signals. With the absence of advertising, network identification on these PBS networks were limited to utilization at the end of the program, which includes the standard series of bumpers from the "Be More" campaign.

Independent networks

While not operated or controlled by PBS proper, additional public broadcasting networks are available and carried by PBS member stations.

Channel Programming Origin
Create Educational and artistic programming American Public TV
MHz WorldView Ethnic programming MHz
V-me Spanish language WNET
World News and documentaries American Public TV
The Florida Channel Regional interest WFSU-TV
Minnesota Channel Regional interest TPT
The Ohio Channel Regional interest WVIZ

From 2002 to 2011, WNED-TV produced ThinkBright TV, carried on several stations in upstate New York.

A separate but related concept is the state network, where a group of stations across a state simulcast a single programming schedule from a central facility, which may include specialty digital subchannels unique to that broadcaster.

Criticism and controversy On-the-air fundraising

Since 53% to 60% of public television''s revenues come from private membership donations and grants, most stations solicit individual donations by methods including fundraising, pledge drives or telethons, which disrupt regularly scheduled programming. This annoys some viewers, since normal programming is often replaced with specials aimed at a wider audience to solicit new members and donations. Underwriting spots are aired at the end of each program, and they differ from traditional commercials in several ways. Each spot must be approved to meet several guidelines. The main guidelines state that underwriting spots cannot be qualitative in any way, nor can they have any call to action.

Accusations of political/ideological bias
  • A 1982 broadcast of the United States Information Agency program Let Poland be Poland about the martial law declared in Poland in 1981 was widely viewed in the U.S., but met with skepticism on the part of eastern European broadcasters (communist countries at the time) due to concerns that the show, "provocative and anticommunist," was intended as propaganda.
  • Individual programs have been the targets of organized campaigns by individuals and groups with opposing views, including former United States Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.
  • Bill Moyers resigned in 2005 after more than three decades as a PBS regular, citing political pressure to alter the content of his program and saying Chairman of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Kenneth Tomlinson had mounted a "vendetta" against him. Moyers eventually returned to host Bill Moyers Journal, after Tomlinson resigned. Subsequently, PBS made room temporarily for conservative commentator Tucker Carlson, formerly of MSNBC and co-host of CNN''s Crossfire, and The Journal Editorial Report with Paul Gigot, an editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page (this show has since moved to Fox News Channel) to partially balance out the perceived left-leaning PBS shows).
Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN)

PBS provides an alternate path for CMAS alerts to wireless carriers. The alerts are transmitted through the PBS satellite network on the AMC-21 satellite to PBS stations who broadcast the messages over their transmitters for reception by wireless carriers at their cell sites.

The network is funded by a grant through National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

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