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This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most unique and important American institutions — public media. In November 1967, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, which created the public television and public radio systems. As the president said at the time, “It will be free, and it will be independent — and it will belong to all of our people.”

The act challenges us to create a public media system that depends on “freedom, imagination and initiative.”

Furthermore, the service should “constitute an expression of diversity and excellence, and which will constitute a source of alternative telecommunications services for all citizens of the nation.”

The value of public media, stated so eloquently in 1967, is no less true today. The sense that this valuable public asset can and must be used as a force for good in our communities is certainly central to KRCB’s purpose and mission.

In the intervening years, however, we have seen television often create a sense of isolation from community, a separation from our local riches and challenges, while watching whatever Hollywood throws at us. In contrast, it is our constant challenge to provide programming to educate, inform and entertain, especially as it reflects our North Bay, Northern California community. Specifically, our mission statement does not aim to encourage folks to watch television or listen to radio but rather to take the information found there and use it to become engaged and involved in our community.

Certainly, our coverage of the disastrous fires underscores the significance of the service. Not only did KRCB provide several weeks of updates, interviews and information during the crisis, we are now developing ways in which we can most effectively support the community in recovery and rebuilding. Dozens of community conversations, hundreds of fresh ideas all need to be recorded, collated and considered. Public media, KRCB, is uniquely suited to provide this recording and reflection for our community. During the months and years to come, you will see KRCB working together with the community as a trusted, valuable partner to assist in the shaping of our collective future.

Finally, it is important to remind ourselves that one of the most important contributions of PBS over the past 50 years has been nonviolent, noncommercial children’s programming. Think of the calm and soothing, respectful way in which Mister Rogers spoke to our young children. Consider the fact that after “Sesame Street” had been on the air for several years, elementary teachers began to change their curriculum because children were arriving at school already knowing their numbers and letters. And, just as importantly, they had been learning how to get along with one another and how to resolve differences peacefully. This contribution alone to our national life is worth the investment in this public asset. Lyndon Johnson spoke of the potential of public broadcasting to satisfy “America’s appetite for excellence” and “enrich man’s spirit.” Five decades later, that vision continues to guide our work.

Join KRCB and Sonoma State University media professors for a discussion about public media in American society. This free event will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday in the student center on the third floor, Ballroom D.

Nancy Dobbs is president and CEO of KRCB North Bay Public Media. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act, KRCB and Sonoma State University are hosting a discussion concerning public media on Monday at the SSU Student Center beginning at 4 p.m.

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