The Digital Revolution and Democracy

Paula Kerger, PBS President

Paula Kerger, President and CEO, PBS.

Paula Kerger President and CEO, PBS

Information and the flow of information that is represented through the digital revolution is extraordinarily powerful. I’m not sure i would answer it as a good or a bad thing, because I think the answer is both.

Certainly there is more information available. People are able to connect to one another so there is an environment that is not always mediated.

And you see the implications of that in the recent train accident in China. The government obviously had their line about what happened, but there were people that were on location that were talking about, this is what I saw.

The power of that is tremendously important.

The people in China then forced the officials to exhume the train car, which they had immediately buried after the accident. So I think thats just a small example of the power. The challenge of it though, is that it also can be a powerful tool for those who want to abuse the exchange of information.

The accuracy of information, and just the whole idea of media literacy is going to be an extraordinarily important topic. Certainly for kids as they are educated, but also for all of us, to really understand what are the sources of information, and how that could be manipulated. and what we need to do to pay attention to that.

This has been a very complicated year for us as we have tried to make the case for the federal funding that we receive. We receive about 15 percent of our funding from the federal government. Thats an aggregate number. The funding actually goes to our stations, it doesn't come to PBS.

Some of our stations get a much smaller percentage, seven or eight percent. Others, particularly in rural parts of the country, it can be as high as 40 and 50 percent. The government funding is actually a very important if you care about access.

And making sure that all americans have the ability to see public broadcasting content,

We are making a great effort, frankly,to reach out to to Americans, to constituents, because at the end of the day, through this past year, that actually is what has made the difference. That’s what retained our funding. It was individuals saying, wait a minute, this organization is not left or right, this organization is one that is trying to give us information -- information that we need, information that our children rely upon and information that our community relies upon --- to help make informed decisions.

If we’re able to continue to touch the people that are using our services, and remind them that it is their voice that will determine whether or not we are in existence in the future, that is what is going to help us continue not only to survive but to grow in this new environment.