Save the "Street": A Technological Reboot in Order for Public Television?

As we move forward with the development of free platforms to create dynamic programming online, an American institution has been left behind: public television, and most specifically, programming from PBS. While the Internet has democratized our ability to create and share, we cannot forget that public television is a critical part of our cultural fabric, especially for those on the other side of the digital divide.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been the victim of budget cuts for last few federal budget cycles. Coupled with these cuts, local stations, like Los Angeles' KCET, face challenges of revenue loss due to the cutbacks many of its financial supporters have been forced to make over the last few years. Instead of treating public broadcasting as a product of a bygone era, we ought to use technology to reboot it.

This is not just about saving the broadcasting of my childhood favorites, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. PBS is all things to all people. As a child, its educational programs, like Sesame Street, teach children the three "R's" they need in today's world: Reading, Writing, and my addition, Reason. Shows like Reading Rainbow and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood not only imparted letters and numbers upon children but also taught children how to navigate life, treat others with dignity and respect and inspire curiosity.

As children continue to grow, the modern equivalent of the shows my contemporaries used to enjoy, the 1990's Ghostwriter, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and my personal favorite, Wishbone, further develop skills and provide wholesome entertainment for the 7-12 age demographic.

Even if one departs from "save the children" arguments, PBS has broadcasting for all ages. The Nightly Business Report delivers financial news and information. Masterpiece Theater delivers those much-loved murder mystery movies while Saturday nights bring reruns of shows like the British comedy Keeping Up Appearances.

PBS Documentaries are one of its most important features. Anyone who watched Ken Burns' The War knows how imperative it is to use channels everyone can watch, which are not driven solely by profit motive and the appeal of advertising dollars, to educate people about our collective history.

And don't forget Antiques Roadshow. Who would have thought a show about old junk people bring to get appraised could be so interesting? It's hard to resist getting excited when an old couple from New Orleans brings a cigarette case they have had with them for over 70 years to get appraised, only to find out it is a Cartier case and worth $75,000.

PBS is a part of OUR culture. It is truly a reflection, and a part of, the American spirit. Most important, it is accessible to those who cannot afford cable or Internet access. In the midst of our technological revolution, we should invest in and only hope that organizations like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can continue to teach three-year olds to seventy-five year olds their letters, numbers and life lessons.

Save the "Street!"