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: