— public television at its best — 

Looking for kid-friendly and family-friendly television? Wondering where to find a variety of news and opinion? Ready to get busy with how-to programs on everything from construction, gardening, quilting, painting, and cooking to antiques? Excited to experience nature, history, and cultural programming you won’t see anywhere else? That’s what public television in the United States does so well.

From coast to coast, America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its public television affiliates offer a variety of over-the-air, digital cable, Web-based, classroom, and educational services to anyone with access to a TV set or a computer. Most led their states and communities in helping residents making the transition from analog to digital television in 2009 and are now offering diverse program streams on multiple digital channels — able to be viewed through humble rabbit-ears/over-the-air antennas in addition to the pricier cable TV subscriptions — as well as on their websites.

Here, we highlight IPTV (Iowa Public Television, Iowa’s statewide network) and KQED (the San Francisco affiliate of PBS), following a conference on the development of digital television (the ninth!), held each fall in Des Moines, Iowa, and sponsored in part by IPTV and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). As you’ll see when you visit these websites, each public television station has its own personality, most often reflecting its location and its audiences. They’re fun, flashy, studious, and entertaining — separately or all at the same time.

As Pat Mitchell, one-time head of the Public Broadcasting Service, reminds anyone who will listen, the PBS mothership itself is only an umbrella organization for this nation’s public television affiliates; it’s not an actual network like CBS, ABC, or Fox, which own their own stations across the country and can pretty much dictate the programs that go on the air (with advertising revenue as the main draw).

Rather, PBS is an umbrella structure that helps develop programming, which is then offered to its affiliates. But affiliates don’t have to put it on the air locally if they don’t want to. While that’s a challenge for the national organization, it’s also a darn good recommendation for the quality programming that usually shows up on your local PBS station. And it can serve as a reminder about what you can do (contact the local station!) if you want to see something else on the public television channels in your area.

PBS takes education and children’s television seriously — and has a lot of fun with it, too, as they’ve branched out beyond the TV screen. Maybe that’s why PBS.org ranks as the most-visited site on the Web. PBS now offers material for targeted audiences that’s accessible directly from its home page — including PBS Kids, PBS Parents, PBS TeacherSource (free lesson plans, activities and professional development tools for PreK-12 educators), and PBS Campus (distance learning courses available for college credit).

These days, more than ever, public television offers incredible value. Jump in!

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos