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TCA Press Tour: The bad news and the good news for PBS

August 2, 2009 |  3:03 pm

On Sunday, PBS President and Chief Executive Paula Kerger addressed the key question of the year, that is of money and whether the earthquakes that have rocked the worlds of business and personal finance caused a permanent change or a temporary one. Local PBS stations have been hit hard during the economic collapse, and PBS itself recently downsized by 10%.

“We’re trying to be quite realistic about the resources we have available,” Kerger said, adding that the network wants to pay for and offer only “extraordinary content.”

She went on to say to say that the stations’ budgets have been slammed from all sides: reductions in state money, university endowments, corporate funding and philanthropy.

But there is also good news for public television, she said. PBS is funded for next year already with a slight increase. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will get $430 million, and is hoping for a further bump to $450 million the following year.

There was also the matter of the new president, who, Kerger noted, has young children and himself watched “Sesame Street” when he was a kid. Tonally, one journalist asked somewhat rhetorically, is there a difference between the Bush administration and the Obama one in terms affection for public television?

“I guess the best way to answer that question is that coming out of the administration, we received full funding for public broadcasting, which is the first time in eight years,” Kerger said. “So I think that says something.”

-- Kate Aurthur