Public affairs TV brings great value

Listen up, Texas Panhandle residents. You’ve got a valuable resource within your grasp. It’s your TV remote. Turn it on, tune in to public television and learn something about the value of civics, government and, dare we say it, politics.

Why issue this wakeup call? A Houston Chronicle editorial published June 7 caught my eye recently during a lengthy layover at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. It’s title read simply, “Disengaged.” It comments on a distressing study that pointed out something distressing about Texans. We rank at or near the bottom of all states in public awareness of civic affairs.

The study was done by the University of Texas-Austin, the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and the National Conference on Citizenship. The editorial states the following:

“By analyzing Census Bureau data, the study found that Texas in 2010 ranked at the very bottom among the states and the District of Columbia in the number of citizens who took the time to cast a ballot. We were 49th in the share of citizens who contacted public officials, 47th in how many trust most of their neighbors and 43rd in the percentage who give to charities. What the numbers tell us is that we are disturbingly disengaged from the life of our communities.”

Here’s the editorial in its entirety:

http://www.chron.com/default/article/Texans-seem-disengaged-4584819.php

That’s where public affairs TV ought to enter the picture.

PBS offers a whole array of public affairs programming to viewers that include — not coincidentally — those who watch KACV-TV, based at Amarillo College. They provide a vast array of educational programs that seek to engage us at many levels.

Whether it’s Frontline, The American Experience, NOVA, Bill Moyers, the NewsHour, Washington Week in Review, Charlie Rose, Independent Lens or the entire array of documentaries produced by noted historians and filmmakers, PBS seeks to enlighten our civic involvement.

Did I mention that all those programs can be seen on KACV?

These programs teach us about our past and give us a potential glimpse toward our future. They bring value to our civic involvement and enable us to get — and remain — engaged in the life of our community. And I’m not talking just about our city or our corner of the vast state in which we live. The world is shrinking and it is imperative that we connect with it.

Public television enables us to make that connection.

That UT-Austin study causes me concern, as it surely must concern others who cherish our system of government and the political process that creates it.

I, therefore, extol the civic value of the public affairs programming that appears on — that’s right — public television. Like the credit card commercial tells us: It’s priceless.

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