Federally Funded Public Media Works in Iowa

Posted: August 28, 2017

Mary Kramer, Chair, Iowa Public Radio Board
David Stark, Chair, Iowa Public Television Foundation Board
Gary Steinke, President, Iowa Public Broadcasting Board

It is our great honor to lead our respective Boards of Directors in providing public television and radio services that enrich Iowa’s civic and cultural life and provide education opportunities for our children. During these complex times, our fellow Board members are focused on ensuring the strength of public broadcasting now and into the future.

Almost everywhere you turn today, there are signs of division and disagreement across our great country. But here in Iowa we see signs of hope, especially in public media. A small taxpayer investment pays real dividends, creating more than just high-quality television and radio content — our shared missions are grounded in education, civic and civil discourse, and community service.

America’s public media system raises the sights of Iowans every day. It prepares our children for school. It informs our engaged citizenry. It expands access and opportunity — over the air, via broadcast, on digital and mobile platforms and in our communities. We witness the impact of our missions each and every day; in Iowa classrooms, in Iowa families and in Iowa communities. 

According to viewers, IPTV is the most trusted and safest place for children to watch television. Families tell us they see it as the best use of their kids’ screen time. In fact, a recent survey ranks PBS KIDS first among children’s TV networks in promoting school readiness. Parents credit PBS KIDS with their children showing more positive behavior. It makes a particular difference for children in low-income or rural communities who don’t attend or have access to high-quality preschool. Public television also provides trusted and reliable learning tools for teachers, parents and homeschoolers. From Wild Kratts to Nature to NOVA, students and learners of all ages are exposed to the wonders of our world and the thrills of discovery and invention that can open doors to careers in high-demand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

More Iowans than ever before are turning to Iowa Public Radio for trusted and high quality news, talk and music programming. This year, IPR’s audience has grown to over a quarter of a million listeners per week — an all-time high. National Public Radio was named the 2017 Harris Poll EquiTrend® News Service Brand of the Year, and IPR listeners cite quality and depth of content as the things they most value about IPR’s service. Nearly 80 percent of respondents to a recent member survey said that IPR enhances their quality of life here in Iowa. IPR’s Talk of Iowa and River to River offer daily opportunities for civil dialogue about the issues facing our society, and IPR’s national program offerings inform and engage and share stories that help us better understand each other.

Public media is part of unifying Americans around culture, too. At a time when funding for music and arts within our schools is being cut, public media provides access to the most sought-after performances for all Americans in every community — urban, suburban and rural. In the past year, IPTV provided a front-row seat to a behind-the-scenes making of “Hamilton” on Broadway as well as the Des Moines Metro Opera performance of Manon. IPR invited listeners to performances of Iowa’s operas and symphony orchestras and shared live sets from venues and music festivals across Iowa highlighting the state’s vibrant music scene.   

You don’t have to take our word for it. The American people believe in federal funding for public broadcasting. It’s a bipartisan fact. One recent poll by the respected team of Hart Research (Democratic) and American Viewpoint (Republican) shows that more than 7 in 10 voters say public television is a good or excellent value for their tax dollars, on par with investments in highways, roads and bridges. Eighty-three percent of all voters — including 70% of those who voted for President Trump – say they would tell Congress to look for cuts somewhere other than public media.

In the context of the federal budget, funding for public broadcasting is a drop in the bucket, representing .01 percent of total expenditures. For every $100 of federal spending, public broadcasting receives just a penny. Yet this investment provides essential seed money for communities like ours, enabling public radio programs like River to River, Talk of Iowa and Symphonies of Iowa and public television programs like Iowa Ingredient, Market to Market and Iowa Press.

Federal funding is critical to ensuring we can carry out our shared missions to promote education, community service and public safety. It is important to let our lawmakers know that in many rural and underserved areas Iowa families rely on over-the-air radio and television service.  

Stations like Iowa Public Radio and Iowa Public Television exist to educate, inform, enrich and inspire our listeners and viewers. In an age of increasing polarization, public media provides rare common ground for people who come from different backgrounds and have varying perspectives. It offers elected leaders an opportunity to engage with the majority of Americans. If our leaders in Washington wish to serve their constituents, they will act to protect this fundamental American institution and strengthen it for future generations.