Editor’s note: On May 23, President Trump released a fiscal year 2018 federal budget proposal that would slash Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding from $455 million to $30 million as a first step in eliminating it. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are proposed for similar cuts. CPB is a major funding source for Georgia Public Broadcasting. Reporter Newspapers asked GPB’s board chairperson, Jan Paul, to explain the impacts.
There are a dizzying number of options at my fingertips when I hold the TV remote. Some channels I know instantly, based on my viewing patterns. However, my go-to favorite is one of our state’s greatest resources — Georgia Public Broadcasting.
For 14 years, I’ve served on its Board of Directors and this past year was named its chairperson. I’ve watched GPB Television become the country’s third-largest PBS station based on population reach, serving Georgia with nine television stations, 18 radio stations and an innovative education and digital division.
When many people think of public media, they focus on “Downton Abbey” (I’m still a huge Dowager Countess fan) or “All Things Considered.” Of course, GPB continues to be PBS’s children’s learning-centered outlet for programming such as “WordGirl.” But GPB is so much more — its Education and Digital Media Division delivers cutting-edge digital education and provides much-needed teacher support throughout the state.
Each year, GPB garners dozens of nominations and awards from the Southeast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences — the Emmys. In 2012 and 2015, it won the Overall Excellence Award.
What does GPB do to receive such recognitions? It delivers more than 35,000 hours of non-commercial, quality PBS and locally produced programming to 98 percent of Georgia and portions of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. GPB’s original series “Georgia Outdoors” and documentaries such as “Georgia Greats: The Long Shadow of Bobby Jones” showcase just some of the beauty, history and people of our state.
Additionally, the Atlanta Press Club, Georgia Associated Press and the Radio Television Digital News Association have awarded GPB Radio for its outstanding news coverage. GPB’s high-quality journalists discuss important local, state and national issues on programs such as “Political Rewind,” “On Second Thought” and “Two Way Street.”
While its broadcast offerings are first-rate, I’m particularly proud of GPB’s remarkable educational initiatives, which separate it from other media outlets and create an invaluable asset for our state.
Last year, its education division delivered professional development to over 2,500 Georgia educators at no cost. GPB provides teachers with free access to over 125,000 original content, digital learning resources through partnerships with Discovery Education and PBS Learning Media. Each month, the education team distributes the “Education Matters” newsletter to over 45,000 educators and a blog that averages 8,000 views per month.
Further, GPB took the creative leap to create the first truly digital textbook in Georgia, the “Georgia Studies Digital Textbook” for eighth-grade history students, which has now been accessed by over 3,400 educators. GPB received a grant to create the textbook, which includes 30 virtual field trips that bring locations to life; interviews; 360-degree photography; and interactive elements — all accessible at no cost on all-digital platforms. The digital platform not only benefits students and teachers; it saves taxpayers dollars on the published textbooks.
It doesn’t stop there. The GPB education team created “Chemistry Matters,” a downloadable, fully comprehensive video course for high school chemistry, emphasizing the STEM curriculum. Currently, GPB is filming a complete, interactive physics series, designed by educators and filmed in classrooms across the state. These STEM resources are valuable learning tools for all Georgia’s high school students and absolutely crucial to school systems that lack advanced science teachers.
Enhancing its academic endeavors, GPB is the destination for everything high school football. Last year, GPB Sports’ two days of live coverage of the 2016 GHSA Football Championships helped rank it as the highest-rated PBS station in the nation on Dec. 9 and 10.
GPB’s live stream captured Georgia high school football fans around the globe, including Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Israel, Russia, Bahrain, Japan and the United Kingdom, literally bringing Georgia high school football to the world. Parents and students followed game scores all season with the GPB Sports football app that, to date, has over 62,000 downloads.
Besides providing media content access anywhere, anytime for mobile phones, tablets and televisions, GPB tackles important issues challenging our communities. From documentaries on diversity and inclusion to community partnerships on autism awareness, GPB is an educational lifeline to millions of Georgia students, teachers and residents.
GPB is a fundamental and successful example of public-private partnership. Support from individuals and the community, paired with federal and state funds, power all our tremendous accomplishments. With federal funding in question, now is the time for all who benefit from this valuable Georgia resource to voice our support. For more information, visit gpb.org/cpb-funding.
Jan Paul is chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission (Georgia Public Broadcasting) and has served on the board since 2003. She is also executive director of Leadership Sandy Springs and the co-founder of iSquared Communications.