PBS Chief Paula Kerger on Possible Impact of Trump Presidency: ‘Too Early to Tell’

TCA 2017: “Our plan over these next months, over these next years is to do the job that the public expects of us,” president and CEO says

Last Updated: January 15, 2017 @ 10:49 AM

PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger addressed how a Donald Trump presidency could affect the public broadcaster at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday by simply saying “it’s too early to tell.”

Kerger said she couldn’t predict what the new Republican administration will do in the next budget cycle, but told critics that PBS member stations are busy speaking with legislators in attempts to protect public media funding.

“As we’ve looked at this change … we are spending time talking to as many people as we can, but particularly legislators,” she said. “On both sides of the aisle, and in the Senate and the House.”

Kerger also reminded reporters and critics that federal funding only accounts for about 15 percent of PBS’s overall budget. But the reason the public broadcaster lobbies so hard against Washington cutting funding for public media, she said, is because some of the network’s member stations — particularly those in more rural areas — depend on it more than others.

“It is really too early to tell what is going to happen,” said Kerger, who clearly came prepared to answer the question at the first press tour since November’s presidential election.

The largest percentage of PBS’s funding comes from individual donors, Kerger said. And though it’s still too early to know if the election has resulted in more individuals contributing to the public broadcaster, the trend has generally been positive.

“The last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in our funding from individual philanthropy,” she said. “A lot of people are really interested in the work we’re doing and see the increased relevance of public television.”

“Our plan over these next months, over these next years is to do the job that the public expects of us,” pointing out that PBS is routinely rated the most trusted media network in the company.

“We are deemed the most trusted public institution in America, and I take that very seriously,” she said, citing a survey conducted by PBS research, which found that the network ranks first among all national institutions in public trust. “The trust people place in us … puts us in a different position than any other media organization.”

“Stay tuned,” she said.