PBS, the nonprofit member organization and public media program distributor, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sunday (10/4).
PBS, with 330 member stations serving all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, provides more than 1,200 hours a year of children’s, primetime, educational, and cultural programming. Since its establishment by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 1969 and its very first broadcast, The French Chef with Julia Child, PBS has fulfilled public media’s mission to provide programming and services that educate, inspire, entertain and express a diversity of perspectives.
“In the 50 years since CPB established PBS, the organizations have worked together to provide a valuable service to the American people and to ensure that public television maintains the highest standards of quality, accessible to all,” said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “We congratulate PBS on its 50th anniversary and celebrate our shared legacy of leadership and commitment to fulfilling public media’s mission.”
2020 is a year marked by the pandemic, a polarized nation, and strained economy— all of which have underscored the important role public media has played through the years. Following the COVID-19 crisis, when schools first closed, many teachers and administrators turned immediately to PBS as a source of easily accessible content for families. PBS’s broadcast signal is uniquely important to the 3.1 million American television households that lack access to cable or the internet. Following the death of George Floyd and amid the ensuing protests, PBS broadcast a series of films and new specials focused on race in America and offered materials to help educators talk with students about race in America.
PBS has introduced and popularized new types of programs since its founding, which have become mainstays in the media landscape. The earliest years of public broadcasting are marked with the premieres of cherished educational programs like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, the Electric Company and NOVA. Other notable programs that aired during this time are Washington Week, now the longest-running primetime news and public affairs program on television, Firing Line, the first conservative talk show on television, and Masterpiece Theater.
PBS is inviting people to share their favorite memories and moments, including the ways in which public television has sparked their curiosity and inspired their love of learning, using #PBS50.