Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), visited Boise on September 14 to help Idaho Public Television thank its funding partners and introduce the fall lineup of PBS programs. She also announced the launch of the PBS Kids 24/7 channel, which is planned to begin broadcasting around-the-clock educational programming over the IdahoPTV airwaves in early 2018.
Speaking at a luncheon for sponsors of IdahoPTV programming, Kerger gave a preview of upcoming PBS programs including The Vietnam War, a 10-part, 18-hour documentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that airs on IdahoPTV this fall. Citing the film’s diversity of perspectives, including Americans who fought in the war and those who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians, Kerger said, “The Vietnam War epitomizes the content we present to the American public — content that gives oxygen and airtime to complex issues, content that encourages civil discourse at a time when it is so desperately needed. … I believe this is the most important film of the year, if not the decade.”
Kerger then turned her comments to education. “At the very core of public broadcasting’s work is a relentless pursuit of knowledge and an unwavering commitment to education … and that begins with our nation’s youngest learners.” She introduced the PBS Kids 24/7 channel, which aims to offer free nationwide access to PBS educational programming.
“Today, PBS Kids reaches more children ages 2 to 5, more kids in low-income homes, and more moms with young children than any other children’s TV network,” Kerger said. “For every child we reach, we know there are so many more who could benefit if they had access to our proven educational content. Over the past decade, we’ve focused on making our educational programming available to as many families as possible, across a range of platforms. I am incredibly grateful to Idaho Public Television and the many people in this room who are helping to bring this game-changing service to Idaho in early 2018. PBS Kids 24/7 will benefit all families, especially the nearly 70 percent of children across Idaho who are not enrolled in preschool.”
That figure comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which ranks Idaho last in the nation for the number of toddlers enrolled in preschool — with 69 percent not enrolled, compared with the national average of 53 percent.
Throughout her presentation, Kerger reinforced the importance of public media in educating people of all ages, as well as the vital role played by those who support it.
“For millions of Americans — especially those in rural areas and remote communities — public television is a vital connection to the world. It may be their only opportunity to see a Broadway show, visit the farthest corners of the earth, or access in-depth news and public affairs programs,” Kerger said. “While federal funding is critical to keeping many of our smaller and rural stations on air, we could not deliver on our very important mission without the support of individuals, philanthropists, corporations and foundations. The strength of public media can be found in our name — we are the ‘public’ broadcasting service. Our roots are firmly planted in the community, and to this day we continue to derive our strength and our inspiration from the community.”