By Leslie Fields-Cruz


December 15, 2020

Digital Public Media: America's Commercial-Free Treasure Chest

I want to thank to those of you who responded to last month's Dispatch about public media membership vs. commercial subscriptions. I'll be sharing some of your comments, anonymously of course, with my colleagues in public media. But I've often wondered how much people really know about the various digital channels managed by public media.

Most communities have a primary public media broadcaster with a virtual presence.  For instance, here in NYC, that’s Channel 13 (WNET); in Los Angeles, it’s Channel 50 (KOCE); in Chicago, it’s Channel 11 (WTTW). However, in addition to the primary stations, many markets have one or more additional public stations. You'll likely find those listed a little “farther up the dial” on your local station guide, or perhaps with a decimal following the primary public station’s number — for instance WGTV 8.3 in Atlanta, or WBIQ 10.4 in Birmingham, Ala. Often, when the programs BPM supports and produces aren’t found on a locality’s primary public station, they can be found on one of these other stations.

Regular readers of this Dispatch already know about WORLD Channel, but I’m always surprised by the number of people I meet who don’t. Initially launched in 2005, on a digital subchannel of Boston’s WGBH/WNET, the WORLD team soon teamed up with PBS to launch nationally in 2007. Today, the channel is carried by more than 60% of U.S. public television stations and is led by Gen. Manager Liz Cheng and Executive Producer and Editorial Manager Chris Hastings. Featuring programming by PBS, APT, ITVS, and NETA, and members of the National MultiCultural Alliance, WORLD is where you'll find BPM's AfroPoP series, along with other docs and current affairs programs.

If you like cooking shows, travel shows or DIY shows, search your local public listings for Create TV. There you'll find programs like Afro-Latino Travels, with Kim Haas; Fly Brother with Ernest White IINo Passport Required, with internationally renowned Chef Marc Samuelsson; and Pacific Islanders in Communication's Family Ingredients.

Most parents already know about PBS Kids, a digital channel that runs commercial-free children's programming 24/7. Its programs, including ArthurCyberchase, and the new Hero Elementary, have become staples of the media diet consumed by millions of American children.

Of course, there's always a need for more stories reflecting the world in which we live. So, what do you want to see on your public media station? Let PBS know, let your local station know. Just, please, don't send your project pitches to me. We have the Open Call and the 360 Incubator+ for that. 😊