Watch Mr. Rogers Persuade Congress to Stop Cutting PBS Budget in 1969

Yes­ter­day, the news broke that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion will appar­ent­ly be slash­ing fed­er­al spend­ing, to the tune of $10.5 tril­lion over 10 years. Accord­ing to The Hill, the “depart­ments of Com­merce and Ener­gy would see major reduc­tions in fund­ing.” And “the Cor­po­ra­tion for Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing [aka PBS] would be pri­va­tized, while the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts and Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties would be elim­i­nat­ed entire­ly.”

Attempts to cut fund­ing for the arts is noth­ing new. Above, we take you back to 1969, when Richard Nixon planned to reduce PBS’ fund­ing from $20 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion. That is, until Fred Rogers, the gen­tle cre­ator of Mis­ter Rogers’ Neigh­bor­hood, spent six short min­utes before Sen­a­tor John Pas­tore, the chair­man of the Sub­com­mit­tee on Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and made his pitch for pub­licly-fund­ed edu­ca­tion­al tele­vi­sion. In those 360 sec­onds, Rogers gets the gruff sen­a­tor to do a com­plete 180 – to end up say­ing “It looks like you just earned the 20 mil­lion dol­lars.”

It’s unlike­ly that Mr. Rogers could get the same trac­tion today. Quite the con­trary, his sweet­ness and sin­cer­i­ty would like­ly be mocked quite mer­ci­less­ly, a sign of how coarse our soci­ety has become these days.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mr. Rogers Intro­duces Kids to Exper­i­men­tal Elec­tron­ic Music by Bruce Haack & Esther Nel­son (1968)

Mr. Rogers Takes Break­danc­ing Lessons from a 12-Year-Old (1985)

Mis­ter Rogers Turns Kids On to Jazz with Help of a Young Wyn­ton Marsalis and Oth­er Jazz Leg­ends (1986)


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  • Anti-Fascist says:

    Christo­pher Man­ion’s blog post on says it well:

    “Defund the Left.” That’s the time­less mot­to of the late Howard Phillips, founder of the Con­ser­v­a­tive Cau­cus who did the home­work to prove that the Left would col­lapse with­out its bil­lions of fed­er­al tax­pay­er fund­ing.

    PBS is the only TV chan­nel my cheap anten­na will receive to watch the inau­gu­ra­tion. Nat­u­ral­ly, while Inter­net stream­ing broad­casts fea­ture the crowds on the west side of the Capi­tol as the dig­ni­taries arrive, PBS fea­tures nine blowhards with sad faces and smarmy swipes at the deplorables.

    First order of busi­ness: Defund PBS and NPR – they **nev­er** thank the tax­pay­er, so appar­ent­ly they don’t need our mon­ey.

    Country’ll grow.

  • Bill W. says:

    Back then, PBS/NEA was need­ed. There were less than five TV net­works you could tune to, and you did­n’t have much of a choice, espe­cial­ly as far as edu­ca­tion & the arts was con­cerned. Today, we have hun­dreds of sta­tions with all gen­res, the Inter­net, etc. Almost all of it is pri­vate­ly fund­ed, but options can be eas­i­ly found that dupli­cate or out-does what PBS and NPR offers, and with the click of a but­ton. Defund these White Ele­phants, they’ve served their pur­pose as type­writ­ers did at one time.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.