A Plea For Public Broadcasting

Ken AshfordHistoryLeave a Comment

Everytime pledge week rolls around on NPR, I am reminded of Fred Rogers (aka "Mr. Rogers", of "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood") in 1969 testifying before Congress.

Public television was in danger of having its budget slashed dramatically.  Mr. Rogers, still a relative unknown, went up to Captial Hill.  He not only urged that the public broadcasting budget not be cut, but he also weighed in on a hot issue at the time: whether VCRs should be allowed to record TV shows from the home — his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.

He gave a 6 minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens.  In a style only Mr. Rogers could deliver, his message was so simple but passionate that even the most gruff politicians were charmed.

Six minutes later, it was all over.  Before Rogers' testimony, the public broadcasting budget was slated to be slashed to a mere $9 million.  Thanks to Mr. R, funding for public broadcasting was actually increased over the prior year — to $22 million.

Here's the testimony:

Ira Glass ain't got nothing on F-Rog.