I grew up on PBS. We never had cable in our house, so we only received four broadcast stations and PBS was the only one my parents let me watch until I was 6. As the foundation of my media consumption, there would be so many ways my life would change if I couldn’t watch PBS. With shows such as Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and The Electric Company serving as gateway programming into a lifelong passion for TV and movies, PBS provided the foundation for me to understand not only how to be a good, literate person, but to recognize quality entertainment. While I have no shame watching reality shows while I fold laundry, they are not my programming of choice.
I think PBS helped shape my taste in media. Sesame Street looked like my own Queens neighborhood (minus the Muppets). The show continues to highlight kids of all colors, multiple languages being spoken, and sidewalks littered with occasional trash. That, my friends, sounds like home. It felt accessible and real, but also aspirational. Now, as a parent, I check out the shows my kids tune into sometimes and they feel purely fantastical. For example, all the living rooms are beautifully decorated, the kids’ outfits are covetable, and no one’s hair is out of place. I need escapism like anyone else, and I do think entertainment should offer that, but it shouldn’t be the only reason to watch a show. PBS, with their researched nonfiction programs and educational yet fun shows, hits on more levels than TV that serves to purely entertain.
I’m not saying that all kids’ programming should be life or literacy lessons dressed up as cartoons. Kids know when they’re being fed broccoli, even if it’s blended into sweet potatoes. But if public funding for PBS goes away (as Trump’s proposed budget outlines), we might lose sight of the purpose of public broadcast stations: they're meant to serve our communities. So if we, as a nation, decided to privately funding them, special interest groups will pay for shows they want, and leave our audiences without programming that truly reflects their needs and interests.
If I couldn’t watch PBS due to drastic funding changes, I am pretty damn convinced my life would change in the following ways:
I Wouldn’t Be Able To Answer My Kids' Questions About Space...
I am a mom of two elementary school children so I get asked about 6 billion questions a day. Some questions, like "Where is my coat?" are easy to answer, but other are real head-scratchers. I don’t know how long you can live outside our atmosphere without oxygen. I have no clue what eels eat. Yes we have Siri and Google in the palm of our hand, but I like to provide context for my kids. Books are first, and a close second is to see what space or nature specials PBS is showing that we can watch together as a family. I mean, why wouldn’t I want to get smarter, too?
… Or Animal Habitats
I find a lot of early education subjects involve animals in places somewhat foreign to my city kids. They read many nonfiction pieces on farms and deserts and jungles and the only wildlife we have in Queens are pigeons, squirrels, and subway performers.
I’d Miss Hating On 'Caillou'
I can’t even hate-watch Caillou, that’s how much that show grates on my nerves. The kid is so annoying and yes I realize he is a 4-year-old animated character, but as a parent I would much rather deal with a real preschooler having a tantrum than one on TV because. I have unconditional love for the actual child. I have no love for Caillou.
There Wouldn’t Be A Platform I Knew My Kids Could Safely Explore
While there is a ton of programming geared to children, I don’t think they get much out of it. While my tween daughter and I do enjoy a good Disney sitcom, even she recognizes the formulaic storylines that always have a stereotypical happy ending.
Since Sesame Street launched on PBS, they channel has always enlisted experts in childhood development to inform how they put their shows together. The result is entertainment my kids love, and education I can trust.
I’d Always Have Something Undeniably Good To Watch
In-depth documentaries. Indie films. Profiles on interesting people who aren't there to promote their new movie/book/fashion line. I would miss having PBS as that go-to resource for quality programming. Even though we have tons of channels on cable and subscribe to several streaming services, sometimes it just seems like there’s nothing actually good on TV.
My Source Of Inspiration Would Fade
As a writer/producer, I glean inspiration from everywhere, but the richest sources for me have been the movie theaters and on PBS. In the last decade or so, though, movie theaters have just been warehouses for superhero franchises, and fewer films celebrating diversity have been gracing the big screen.
While I have seen some films, and a ton of TV, that resonates with me on smaller screens, PBS has always curated programming that you just can’t find anywhere else. They also give voice to points of view that are hard to find in mainstream, ad-supported media, and on cable news. If they don’t have the public funding to continue to offer this wide spectrum of programming from voices that represent all types of humans, our world view will continue to narrow.
I Would Become Even More Jaded About The Entertainment Industry
I feel like we’ve hit celebrity saturation point in American entertainment culture. Even now, with the spotlight on the abhorrent behavior of power-hungry men abusing their status in the industry to humiliate, dominate, and assault women, it’s like audiences can’t get enough about Hollywood. PBS offers a palate cleanser, and even when they air programming that feature celebrities — like Charlie Rose’s roundtable show or Lupita Nyong’o in Finding Your Roots — it’s about the people, and not the products they help to sell. Our obsession with celebrities doesn’t have to go away, but it’s nice to have alternative stories to tell about them and/or with them.
I’d Lose Some Of My Own Childhood
I watched my first Marx Brothers movie on PBS. My mom would let me stay up late every Christmas eve for the annual broadcast of American Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker. And when I was fresh out of college, pounding the pavement in search of entry level film or TV jobs, my mom would encourage me to write a letter to PBS asking for a job. If this network goes away, so much of what contributed to my love of TV and film will disappear. I know nothing is forever, but classic films, thought-provoking documentaries, and hyper-local programming that makes you feel counted and represented in the media can be.
If PBS loses its public funding and becomes privatized, those financing the programming will support what they want to see, and might not be what we all need.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.