Against all odds, public broadcasting is alive and well in Atlanta and Georgia.
Case in point: the recently-released documentary: “Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel,” shows how great local public broadcasting can be. The one-hour documentary was produced, directed and written by Atlanta’s-own Pamela Roberts.
“It’s a gift for the ages to Georgia,” said Teya Ryan, GPB’s president and executive director. “We don’t use any state money for production and acquisition of programming. But the people of Georgia have risen to the occasion because they are still funding us.”
Then take Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA) and WABE .
During its last spring fundraising drive, the station raised $1.3 million in pledges — a 12 percent increase from a year earlier. The number of donors also increased — from 12,317 to 14,331 — a 17 percent increase.
The individual contributions make up nearly half of PBA’s $11.5 million budget. Corporate donors provide another 37 percent while only 12 percent comes from federal funds, , according to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Somehow, Atlanta and Georgia’s public broadcasting stations have found a way to survive, and even thrive, with limited public funding.
Ryan, who has been at GPB for two-and-a-half years, has seen the state cut her funding by a third during her tenure, forcing the organization to lay off employees.
But Ryan said that the state budget cuts will not diminish GPB’s local programming.
“We are giving new filmmakers a chance to grow and expand,” Ryan said. “I want to say to the creative community that our door is open.”
Saying that GPB is the largest public broadcasting entity in the South based on its reach, Ryan said: “We have a real responsibility to represent this region well.”
While GPB and PBA have shown how well they can adapt to the economic recession and their changes in funding, our public broadcasting potential has never been fully realized.
For decades, advocates of public television and public radio in Georgia have hoped that GPB and PBA would find a way to collaborate, partner or even join forces to create one of the strong public broadcasting power houses in the nation.
GPB is a statewide network of television and radio stations across Georgia. But the one market where it does not have a radio presence is in metro Atlanta. The National Public Radio’s station in Atlanta is WABE-90.1, which is part of PBA.
Both public broadcasting operations have different target markets. GPB is affiliated with the State of Georgia and caters to a statewide audience. PBA, which is affiliated with the Atlanta Public Schools, focuses more on the Atlanta region.
Despite on-again, off-again talks between the two competing broadcasting entities, for some reason they have never been able to find a way to combine or mesh their operations or services.
It is true that that under former GPB executive director Nancy Hall, GPB did find ways to partner with PBA. And both stations have found ways not to run the same programs at the exact same times.
But the opportunity to really build a bridge between both organizations remains. If both entities were open and willing, they could explore ways to cooperate on local programming, find areas where they duplicate services, create avenues for sharing their resources.
When asked about whether she would be willing to re-examine the opportunities between GPB and PBA, Ryan said yes.
Meanwhile, both public broadcasting operations continue to build on their individual strengths.
“I feel really good about GPB right now,” Ryan said. “I feel very positive about the future. It’s very bright.”
Georgia Public Broadcasting’s mission statement:
To create, produce and distribute high quality programs and services that educate, inform and entertain our audiences and enrich the quality of their lives.
Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s vision statement:
We believe that communication is the foundation of civilization. It is the path by which knowledge, understanding, discourse and values are achieved, nurtured and passed down. We envision our communities as informed, energetic, engaged and with a pervasive sense of interconnectedness to each other and to the world. And we believe that our role as a trusted enabler of communication is fundamental in building the beloved community to which we aspire.