You might say these shows get a lot of public support. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a non-profit organization that provides educational and public interest programming to more than 350 member public TV stations in the US. In addition to such programs as NOVA, This Old House, and Masterpiece Theatre, it provides related services such as distribution, fundraising support, and technology development. PBS gets its revenue from underwriting, membership dues, federal funding (including grants from the not-for-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting), royalties, license fees, and product sales. The organization was founded in 1969 to provide cultural and educational programming.
While PBS -- and its federal funding -- regularly finds itself caught in the crossfire between liberal and conservative political groups, supporters of the non-profit trumpet the benefits of publicly-funded television programming created to serve groups often overlooked by commercial broadcasters. PBS' children's programming and news shows such as Frontline and PBS NewsHour (formerly The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) are often touted as examples of how public broadcasting can fill voids left by the major networks.
Being publicly supported has not spared PBS from the downturn in the economy, however. The recession has led to declining federal funds and has made it harder for the network to raise additional underwriting support from corporations. In response, PBS has been focused on cutting production costs while maintaining quality programming. That effort included some job cuts in 2009.
The organization has also been looking to capitalize on new distribution channels to get its programming to the public. PBS sells its programs on DVD and through Apple's iTunes store. It has also ramped up its online video efforts.
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