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Public Broadcasting Service
Type Broadcast television network
Country United States
Availability Nationwide
Slogan Be More PBS (current)
This is PBS (secondary)
Headquarters 2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22202
Key people
Paula Kerger
(President and CEO)[1]
Afsaneh Beschloss
Launch date
October 5, 1970 (October 5, 1970)
Former names
National Educational Television (1952–1970)
Official website

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an non-profit public broadcaster has 354 member television stations, which share collective ownership.[3] The network'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.[4] 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.[5]

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.


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


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 Newark, New Jersey station WNDT to form WNET.[6] In 1973, it merged with Educational Television Stations.[7][8][9]

Unlike the model of America's prime-time programs on a common programming schedule to market them nationally more effectively. KCET's management cited unresolvable financial and programming disputes among its major reasons for leaving PBS.[10]

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 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 came out before CPB not appear in 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, [11][12][13][14]

In December 2009, PBS signed up for the Nielsen ratings audience measurement reports for the first time.[15] On May 8, 2013, PBS as well as PBS Kids programs were made available through the Roku streaming player.[16]


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:

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 Pokémon, Ghostwriter and The Magic School Bus).


Many PBS member stations, including Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Nebraska Educational Television, 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,[17] as well as Ivy League football. Notable football commentators included Upton Bell, Marty Glickman, Bob Casciola, Brian Dowling, Sean McDonough, and Jack Corrigan.[18] Other sports programs included interview series such as The Way It Was and The Sporting Life.[19]

Participating 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:

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,[20] 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,[21] 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.[22] Underwriting spots are aired at the end of each program, and they differ from traditional commercials in several ways.[23] Each spot must be approved to meet several guidelines.[24] The main guidelines state that underwriting spots cannot be qualitative in any way, nor can they have any call to action.[25]

Accusations of political/ideological bias

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.[31][32]

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

See also


  1. ^ "PBS Corporate Officers and Senior Executives". Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  2. ^ "Afsaneh Beschloss". Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "About PBS". PBS. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  4. ^ "PBS #1 in public trust for the sixth consecutive year, according to a national Roper survey" (Press release). PBS. February 13, 2009. Retrieved July 14, 2009. 
  5. ^ Michael Getler (May 15, 2008). "Caution: That Program May Not Be From PBS". PBS. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  6. ^ Public Broadcasting PolicyBase (January 14, 2000). "Articles of Incorporation of Public Broadcasting Service". Current Newspaper. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  7. ^ Jarvik, Laurence Ariel, PBS, behind the screen, Rocklin, CA : Forum, 1997. ISBN 0761506683
  8. ^ "The Morning Record". Google News. Retrieved 2013-10-28. 
  9. ^ The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television - James Day - Google Books. (1969-09-16). Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
  10. ^ KCET
  11. ^ The Charities Americans Like Most And Least, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 13, 1996
  12. ^ Charity begins with health, Concern over diseases cited; Karen S. Peterson; December 20, 1994; USA Today; FINAL Page 01D
  13. ^ Survey helps firms choose charities; Laura Castaneda; December 13, 1994; The Dallas Morning News; HOME FINAL Page 1D
  14. ^ Interview with Lavalle 9/7/09
  15. ^ Gorman, Bill (2009-12-20). "PBS Signs Up For Nielsen Ratings". Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  16. ^ Roku's PBS, PBS Kids channels go live, stream full episodes Retrieved May 8, 2013
  17. ^ "Mary Carillo". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  18. ^ Mark. "Penn Football Tapes 1980–1989". Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  19. ^ "Jim Palmer jockeys from underwear to PBS". Houston Chronicle. 1985-04-17. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  20. ^ "AMC 21 at 125.0°W". LyngSat. 2011-03-02. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  21. ^ "Public Broadcasting Revenue Fiscal Year 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  22. ^  
  23. ^ "PBS Guidelines for On-Air Announcements". PBS. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  24. ^ "PBS Guidelines for On-Air Announcements". PBS. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  25. ^ "Voice-Over Copy Guidelines". Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  26. ^ Let Poland Be Poland (1982, TV) on IMDB
  27. ^ US Public Diplomacy in Hungary: Past and Present, Edward Eichler, April 25, 2008
  28. ^ Associated Press."Education chief rips PBS for gay character: Network won't distribute episode with animated 'Buster' visiting Vt.," MSNBC, January 26, 2005.
  29. ^ Paul Farhi (April 22, 2005). PBS Scrutiny Raises Political Antennas. The Washington Post
  30. ^ "PBS: Back to bias basics".  
  31. ^ "WARN". PBS. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  32. ^ "PBS WARN Information". PBS. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  33. ^ Ralph Lowell Award. Retrieved on 2013-10-23.

Further reading

  • B.J. Bullert, Public Television: Politics and the Battle over Documentary Film, Rutgers Univ Press 1997
  • Barry Dornfeld, Producing Public Television, Producing Public Culture, Princeton University Press 1998
  • Ralph Engelman, Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History, Sage Publications 1996
  • James Ledbetter, Made Possible by: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States, Verso 1998

External links

  • Official website
  • PBS "Red Book" (presentation guidelines for PBS programming)
  • Video interview with PBS President Paula Kerger
  • , the newspaper about public TV and radio in the United StatesCurrent
  • PBS on Facebook
  • PBS on Google+
  • PBS on Twitter
  • PBS's channel on YouTube
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