chapter  Chapter One
24 Pages

Public Television: The Historical and Political Context

ByWilliam Hoynes

Since its inception, American television has been organized by the principles of the free market. The market orientation of American television was seen as its principal constraint. Rather than fundamentally restructuring the commercial television industry, reformers created a new institution, public television, to help fulfill the communication needs of a democratic citizenry. Rather than model American public television after state television in Europe, the designers of the system sought to avoid state control and suggested an administrative and financial structure to prevent it. The chapter presents a brief overview of the various organizations that make up the system, summarizes the evolution of public television funding, and examines the makeup of the public television audience. Along with expansion in the number of local stations, another sign of public television's growth is the dramatic increase in its total income. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.