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If you’re looking for educational content one of the most sought after channels in the niche is the Public Broadcasting Service better known by its acronym PBS. It is an American public broadcaster and television program distributor. The nonprofit organization is famously known as one of the most reliable educational television programming stations in the United States.
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The channel receives its funding from multiple sources, enabling it to remain non-profit for decades now. Funding comes from a combination of member station dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Datacast, pledge drives, and donations from both private foundations and individual citizens.
PBS has a long history and got its start all the way back on November 3, 1969, where it was launched at its now-former headquarters in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia. It was created by Hartford N. Gunn Jr. the president of WGBH, John Macy the president of CPB, James Day the last president of National Educational Television, and Kenneth A. Christiansen the chairman of the department of broadcasting at the University of Florida.
Following the creation of the channel, it began operations on October 5, 1970. From the onset, the channel took over many of the functions of its predecessor, National Educational Television (NET).
What put the channel on the map, was their coverage of the Watergate scandal, as they broadcast the United States Senate Watergate Committee proceedings. The broadcast was nationwide, and Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer rose to prominence as they were the commentators. They stuck with the proceedings for seven months, nightly in a format popularly known as “gavel-to-gavel” broadcasts.
In 2019, PBS announced that they intended to move its headquarters to a new building in Crystal City, Virginia. As of 2020. PBS has nearly 350 member stations around the nation.
PBS depends on its member stations who often show rebroadcasts of British television costume dramas, comedies and science fiction programs which they have acquired from BBC and other sources. Some of these shows include popular programs like Downton Abbey; ‘Allo ‘Allo!; Are You Being Served?; The Benny Hill Show, and many more.
A lot of the programming on PBS is geared towards educating children. As such, the PBS Kids Channel was launched in 1999 and operated until 2005. It was largely funded by satellite provider DirecTV. The channel stopped operating on September 26, 2005, and PBS Kids Sprout was launched.
The commercial digital cable and satellite television channel was originally operated as a joint venture with Comcast, Sesame Workshop and Apax Partners. Once again the format was changed and an updated PBS Kids Channel was launched on January 16, 2017. As of 2019, PBS Kids remains the only children’s programming block on U.S. broadcast television.
PBS maintains memberships with 354 television stations encompassing 50 states, the District of Columbia and four other U.S. possessions. This phenomenal membership makes it the only television broadcaster in the United States that has station partners licensed in every U.S. state. The service has an impressive estimated national reach of 93.74% of all households in the United States. That equates to 292,926,047 Americans with at least one television set.
PBS has a wide array of programs available and not all are educational. Some of the more popular shows on PBS are:
- Great Performances
- Downton Abbey
- American Family: Journey of Dreams
- Nova, Nature
- American Experience
- American Masters
- History Detectives
- Antiques Roadshow
- PBS NewsHour
- Washington Week
- Nightly Business Report