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Happy 45th Birthday to the Public Broadcasting Act

In the midst of the election yesterday and the aftermath today, a significant date in the history of broadcasting, particularly public broadcasting, nearly passed without notice.

President Lyndon Johnson signing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law

It was 45 years ago today that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 into law. The law established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and eventually the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio It charged the CPB with encouraging and facilitating program diversity and the expansion and development of non-commercial broadcasting.

Here is some of what President Johnson said in his remarks before signing the Act (with apologies for gender insensitivities):

The message Samuel Morse sent to a friend after he invented the telegraph was, “What hath God wrought?”… Every one of us should feel that same sense of awe and wonderment here today… For today miracles in communication are a daily routine…Today our problem is not making miracles but managing miracles. We might ponder a different question: what hath man wrought and how will man use his inventions. The law that I will sign shortly offers one answer to that question. It announces to the world that our Nation wants more than just material wealth; our nation wants more than a “chicken in every pot.” We in America have an appetite for excellence, too. While we work every day to produce new goods and create new wealth, we want also to enrich man’s spirit. That is the purpose of this act…. “What hath man wrought? And how will man use his miracles?” The answer just begins with public broadcasting. So today we rededicate a part of the airwaves–which belong to all of the people–and we dedicate them for enlightenment of all of the people…
President Lyndon Johnson

The beginning of the Public Broadcasting Act Starts out:

(a) Congressional declaration of policy The Congress hereby finds and declares that–

(1) it is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes;

(2) it is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of nonbroadcast telecommunications technologies for the delivery of public telecommunications services;

(3) expansion and development of public telecommunications and of diversity of its programming depend on freedom, imagination, and initiative on both local and national levels;

(4) the encouragement and support of public telecommunications, while matters of importance for private and local development, are also of appropriate and important concern to the Federal Government;

(5) it furthers the general welfare to encourage public telecommunications services which will be responsive to the interests of people both in particular localities and throughout the United States, which will constitute an expression of diversity and excellence, and which will constitute a source of alternative telecommunications services for all the citizens of the Nation;

(6) it is in the public interest to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities;

(7) it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to complement, assist, and support a national policy that will most effectively make public telecommunications services available to all citizens of the United States;

(8) public television and radio stations and public telecommunications services constitute valuable local community resources for utilizing electronic media to address national concerns and solve local problems through community programs and outreach programs;

(9) it is in the public interest for the Federal Government to ensure that all citizens of the United States have access to public telecommunications services through all appropriate available telecommunications distribution technologies; and

(10) a private corporation should be created to facilitate the development of public telecommunications and to afford maximum protection from extraneous interference and control.

So Happy Listening, Happy Viewing, and Happy Birthday to Public Broadcasting!

Tim Eby was the General Manager of St. Louis Public Radio from January of 2009 to September of 2020.

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