PBS Funding Sources: What You Need to Know

Background – How and Why Did Public Media Come About?

Southern California’s public media organizations, like PBS SoCal and NPR member stations KPCC and KCRW, were born with the purpose of educating, entertaining and inspiring the American people, unencumbered by political or commercial imperatives. The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation, which is the steward of federal appropriations to the more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations across the country.

How is PBS SoCal Funded?

PBS SoCal is a locally-owned and operated 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and is the flagship PBS station for 18 million people across six diverse Southern California counties – including Los Angeles County. Our funding comes mostly from the community – individuals, foundations and corporate underwriters who believe in the mission. More than 52% of our funding comes from individuals whose average annual contribution is $115.00. So, when we say PBS SoCal is your PBS and is supported by viewers like you, we really mean it.

pbs funding pie chart

Putting Federal Investment in Perspective

Public broadcasting is a public-private partnership in the best tradition of America’s free enterprise system. It is an American investment that yields significant returns, and it is not a large investment compared to most of what government does. Public broadcasting investment accounts for just $1.35 per citizen per year, but it pays huge dividends in education, public safety and civic leadership to millions of Americans and their families.

The $445 million federal investment in public broadcasting is vital seed money. This is especially true for stations located in rural America and those serving underserved populations, where federal funds (through CPB) counts for 40-50% of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect.

This vital seed money helps PBS SoCal with our essential programming costs, and enables us to raise over 85% of our budget that we get from local sources – so for PBS SoCal, federal funding returns $6 in local funding for every $1 in federal investment.

The American People Overwhelmingly Support Federal Funding

A new bipartisan survey reveals that, as our nation weighs choices about how to prioritize budget decisions, the American people overwhelmingly support federal funding for public television. You can see the full federal government funding for public broadcasting press release here.

  • 73% of voters are against eliminating federal funding for public television. Republicans are against it by almost a 2-1 margin (62%-32%).
  • 83% of voters – including 70% of President Trump voters – would tell their U.S. senator or congressperson to leave public television funding alone and find savings elsewhere.
  • 2 in 3 voters think it is very or fairly important for America to have a strong public television system.
  • 3 in 4 voters want federal funding for public television increased or maintained at current levels. 66% who voted for President Trump favor increasing or maintaining federal funding for public television, as do 86% of those who voted for Hillary Clinton.
  • Public television enjoys a very high image rating among the electorate (69% positive v. 7% negative). Among those that voted for President Trump, PBS/public television has a much higher positive image rating (60%) than the traditional broadcast networks (37%), cable TV networks (41%) and newspapers (24%).
  • In addition to spanning the political spectrum, support for public television is strong across all regions of the country. Solid majorities in the Northeast (82%), South (68%), Midwest (74%), and West (69%) oppose elimination of federal funding. The support for federal funding of public television persists across all segments of the voting public.

What Value Do PBS Stations Deliver?

A robust public broadcasting system is necessary to maintaining an educated and informed citizenry and a civil society that enriches public life. In an era of great division and polarization, local PBS stations like PBS SoCal play a meaningful role in our communities – meeting local needs, fostering dialogue, and bringing people together around the pressing issues of our time.

  • Public TV provides more than 120,000 trusted learning tools and free resources for teachers, parents, and caregivers to use in the classroom and at home, that reach 40 million children across the country.
  • As the number-one source of children’s educational media, public television is America’s largest classroom. Research shows that children’s shows such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Super Why! and Peg Plus Cat teach important skills, such as social-emotional skills, early literacy, and math. In Southern California, PBS SoCal airs 12 hours of this educational kids’ content every weekday on our main channel PBS SoCal 1. And we recently launched PBS SoCal KIDS – a 24/7 educational kids channel.
  • Public television reaches 68% of all kids age two to eight, providing educational media that’s proven to prepare kids for school, especially low-income and underserved children who do not attend pre-school. In Southern California, more than 40% of children do not have access to high quality preschool, so we aim to bridge that gap.
  • Public TV is the only non-commercial television network available for free to ALL Americans, whether or not they have cable TV. More than 200 million Americans connect through more than 350 public television stations, as well as through the web, mobile devices, in the classroom, and at in-person events.
  • Public TV provides trusted, family-oriented programming for all ages that does not include violence or sexual content. Public TV is a smart investment. At a time when schools are cutting funding for music and art, public TV helps keep the arts alive for children and adults.