Biographical / Historical
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is the steward of the U.S. federal government’s investment in public broadcasting and the nation’s largest single source of funding for public radio, television, and related services. CPB is known for distributing funding to locally-owned public radio and television stations and ensuring universal access to “non-commercial-high quality content and telecommunications services.” President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, which created the CPB, on November 7, 1967. The Public Broadcasting Act was a landmark piece of legislation that acknowledged the previous five decades of growing public interest in public educational radio and television programs for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes. Congress ensured CPB enshrines the independence and neutrality of educational broadcasting. The CPB charter calls for, “…programs of high quality, obtained from diverse sources, will be made available to noncommercial educational television or radio broadcast stations, with strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature.”
The CPB’s funding is annually authorized by Congress and since its early years provided testimony advocating the value of educational broadcasting. In 1969, President Nixon proposed significant cuts to the CPB. A major early milestone for CPB, Fred Rogers and others testified on behalf of the CPB before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications and persuaded them not to cut funding for public broadcasting. The CPB continually justifies funding as educational programs rely on a combination of public and private grants.
The CPB does not own or operate any television or radio broadcasting networks or produce programs; its function is funding educational stations, networks, systems, and programs for public dissemination. CPB is known for providing funding to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), established in 1969 to interconnect public television stations and distribute programming, and National Public Radio (NPR), which is a public radio program service that produces and distributes programming. CPB began funding Sesame Street on PBS in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, CPB started funding other notable PBS and NPR programs such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, NOVA, American Playhouse, FRONTLINE, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and StoryCorps.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting also funded major public broadcasting technological and cultural initiatives. For example, CPB funded the first satellite television network in the U.S., which started beaming programs in 1978. CPB also provided financial and technical support to develop the first closed captioning system operated nationwide in 1979 on PBS, along with support from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. By 1980, CPB planned a nationwide public radio satellite system linking 217 public radio stations. One major cultural initiative was the Annenberg/CPB project, dedicated to creating college-level programs and materials as stipulated by a $150 million grant from Walter Annenberg’s foundation to the CPB. CPB also incorporated funding for minorities into its priorities, including grants to support production and distribution and public television and radio by and about African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, beginning in 1987. As networks switched to digital broadcasts, between 2002-2009 CPB distributed special funding to help television stations complete the transition.