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Concerned about the intellectual content of most television broadcasts and about the perceived need for educational programming, especially for the nation’s youth, Congress passed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 (Public Law 90-129; 47 USC 396). Upon signing this legislation into law, President Lyndon Johnson stated with regard to the merits of public broadcasting that the Public Broadcasting Act would:
“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 to create new wealth, we want most of all to enrich man's spirit. That is the purpose of this act.
It will give a wider and, I think, stronger voice to educational radio and television by providing new funds for broadcast facilities.
It will launch a major study of television's use in the Nation's classrooms and their potential use throughout the world.”
Section (a) of the Act is a statement of Congress’s intent with regard to passage of the new law, with subsection (6) being of particular importance in understanding the Act’s purpose:
“(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; . . .”
The Public Broadcasting Act institutionalized the federal government’s role in the broadcast over both television and radio of regulated content intended to elevate the intellectual content of the material sent over the nation’s airwaves. To oversee the federally-funded and regulated networks, Congress established as part of the Act the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), intended to be a nongovernmental organization but tightly connected to the government, a major source of its funding. The CPB was to be, and is, run by a Board of Directors comprised of public citizens, albeit politically-connected citizens with strong ideas regarding the content of public broadcasting. Section (b) of the Act specifies as the main purpose of the CPB the following mission statement:
“facilitate the full development of public telecommunications in which programs of high quality, diversity, creativity, excellence, and innovation, which are obtained from diverse sources, will be made available to public telecommunications entities, with strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature; . . .” [See Section (g) of the Act]
Section (c) specifies the structure and composition of the newly-established Corporation for Public Broadcasting; section (d) sets for the procedures for election of the Board’s chairman and vice chairman; section (e) establishes rules guiding the staffing of the CPB; (f) specifies that the CPB is to be a not-for-profit and “nonpolitical” organization; [skipping over sections that further specify the requirements of the CPB] section (i) requires the CPB report annually to Congress on its activities and funding and budget situation; section (j) is a minor provision allowing for subsequent amendments; section (k) establishes restrictions on the nature and value of contributions the CPB can receive; section (l) requires annual audits of the CPB by the General Accounting Office (now officially called the Government Accountability Office); and section (m) requires the CPB to assess the needs of minority and diverse audiences to ensure that the appropriate programming is produced to cater to the those needs.
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