After a very contentious election last year, I am hopeful that we can set aside the partisan bickering that has plagued the halls of government throughout our great nation. In order to stimulate and facilitate honest dialogue and discourse, we must continue to support trusted sources for news information, programming and entertainment that only public media can deliver. PBS is an example of the important role public media plays in our lives and is a widely respected source of news, information and entertainment.
In communities of color, we need organizations that will help us bridge the gaps that often divide people of different cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic conditions, and beliefs. PBS helps close those gaps through its culturally relevant programming and through its vast network of member stations throughout the country.
As an American of Asian heritage, one of the first places I visit to search for content that is relevant to me and the greater Asian-American and Pacific-Islander communities is PBS, because no other major media organization offers the quality, depth and quantity of coverage on what is happening in our country and our world than they do. Additionally, when news and entertainment seem to focus primarily on negative news, I find comfort in knowing that PBS offers a more-balanced view on what is happening in our nation and in our own local communities.
Over the past several years, PBS member stations have broadcast programs that no other major media organization has covered in our country. These programs have covered human experiences through the eyes and cultural lenses of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and other minorities, including: “Filipino American Lives,” a two-part program showcasing the rich cultural and historical relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines, and how Filipino Americans have positively impacted America; “Becoming American – The Chinese Experience,” focusing on the setbacks, progress and triumphs of Chinese-American immigrants as they address discrimination and acculturation in our country; “Ma’o Organic Farms,” a story focusing on self-sufficiency, resiliency and economic development for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders in Hawai’I; “Children of the Camps,” a story covering the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II; and, an upcoming series covering the Vietnam War, that will cover this conflict from multiple angles, including from Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American perspectives.
PBS and other public media also advance public safety in our communities. Emergency broadcasts, amber alerts, and text messages benefit our community significantly and are often taken for granted until we need them. With rising public concern over safety, we must continue to have trusted sources of news and information in all of our communities.
The American people of all backgrounds also support public media. In a very recent poll, two well-respected research companies (one Republican, the other Democratic) revealed that more than seven in 10 voters say that public television is a good or excellent value for their tax dollars which is on par with the public’s beliefs that we should invest in important public works such as bridges and roads. And to demonstrate the important role public media plays in all of our lives, 83 percent of all voters say that Congress should pursue other federal cuts aside from public television.
But even more importantly, the public needs to know one very important fact. Federal funding for public broadcasting represents .01 percent of total expenditures! Our tax-supported dollars are needed by public television to continue to produce, provide and air culturally specific and culturally relevant programming for all Americans, including Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
If we wish to continue to promote the values, ideals and richness of America, we need our federal officials to do the right thing and protect our most cherished and respected institutions such as PBS and other public media.
Bill Imada is the founder, chairman and chief connectivity officer at IW Group, a minority-owned and operated advertising, marketing and communications agency focusing on the growing multicultural markets. He has been a member of the PBS board of directors since 2015. He is the vice chair of the PBS Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and serves on the Diversity Advisory Committee and Strategic Planning Advisory Group.