A Reflection: 10 Years of Protecting Public Media

By Cait Beroza |

Ten years ago, 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting, the predecessor to Protect My Public Media, was launched. Recognizing the challenges ahead, our grassroots network was created to defend the federal investment that powers local public radio and television stations.

Over the years, our name, our look, and our capabilities to contact Congress have changed. The public’s commitment to communicate the value of local stations to legislators, however, has only gotten stronger.

Our First Year Protecting Public Media

During our first year, the future of public media was uncertain. The House of Representatives voted to defund NPR. While the vote was not in our favor, our network sent 240,000 messages urging lawmakers to support federal funding for public media. It was the first signal of our strength.

Since 2011, federal funding for public media has faced opposition from Congress and even the White House. Despite several damaging proposals, we fended off almost every attack for a decade.

And in 2019, Congress approved increased funding for stations for the first time in many years.

How were we able to protect public media funding?

The answer starts with you. Through our website, more than 800,000 grassroots advocates have taken over 2.3 MILLION actions to protect public media!

Time and time again, we have triumphed thanks to our devoted network’s response.

Your actions are fueled by an understanding that public media makes American communities more informed, smarter and safer. Every day we fight to ensure all Americans have access to:

  • Free, local over-the-air media
  • Proven-effective educational content that improves children’s learning outcomes
  • Trusted news and information
  • Geotargeted emergency information

And in the spirit of Fred Rogers, an early federal funding advocate, we politely but firmly bring our neighborhood’s message to Congress.

A Year of Extraordinary Service

Our 10th anniversary has been capped off by a year of extraordinary service. In 2020, stations in all 50 states and U.S. territories worked harder and more resourcefully to ensure that we had the news, educational services, and emergency information that we needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stations have been a lifeline for Americans. Public media’s frontline journalists have covered the pandemic from every angle. Their trusted reporting has brought us the latest on vaccine development, strategies to stay healthy, and the local effects of COVID-19 in our communities.

Public television stations became classrooms and support systems for teachers, parents and caregivers, broadcasting curriculum-aligned content and lessons from local teachers over-the-air to ensure pre-K through 12th grade students had access to educational content, even if they did not have internet access, helping to bridge the digital divide. From offering lesson plans, classroom content, social-emotional and other educational resources, public television’s resources for teachers, parents and caregivers have been unmatched.

Local and state governments used public media’s airwaves to send emergency alerts, assuring the safety of residents affected by weather, the coronavirus and more.

Stations organized virtual proms, dance parties and community events to fight feelings of isolation.

Undoubtedly, this has been the most difficult year for Americans and our local public media stations in recent history. But we have been motivated by our stations’ determination to provide services to support their communities through hardship.

Protect My Public Media’s Next Chapter

Congress continues to negotiate the final funding levels for your local public media stations. You can support a stronger result by encouraging your lawmakers to provide robust funding in the Fiscal Year 2021 legislative package. The debate is expected to go into next week. Your messages could contribute to another victory for public media.

Next year, we will have a new President and a new Congress with 68 newly elected Members, presenting opportunities to cultivate champions as well as potential obstacles.

Since May, we have pressed congressional leaders to approve additional emergency funding for our stations. We will continue to talk about this issue with lawmakers in the coming months.

We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare for it. And that’s what we’re doing now.

No matter what happens – if we continue to band together in support of our stations – we can protect public media for years to come.
From everyone on the Protect My Public Media Team, thank you for giving your attention, your time, and your heart to protect your local public media stations. We look forward to working with you to write the next chapter of our campaign’s history.