When asked about Idaho Public Television, Paula Kerger responds like a proud parent. The PBS executive says the station is the most watched in the country per capita, and points to the award-winning local programming as a reason why.
But when it comes to the strength of the system across the country, Kerger admits the fragmented media landscape and shifting platforms has made things confusing for public TV at times.
“Because people are watching on television," she says, "they’re watching on their tablets, they’re watching on their smartphones – and we need to be able to be in all of those places.”
PBS made headlines earlier this year as Sesame Street’s production company went into contract with HBO. The move means the premium cable company would get rights to run new episodes of the iconic show first – and would later play on PBS. But Kerger says not to read too much into that change.
“Our pipeline for children’s programming is robust. And I would not look at this relationship with HBO as a signal of how we’re going to be producing programming in the future.”
In 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney surprised Kerger during a presidential debate when he said he would "stop the subsidy to PBS" if elected. But the public media leader says Congress has heard from people who rely on public TV.
"But we don't assume anything; we're constantly vigilant to make the case about the funding for public media. And as we go into an election cycle, anything can come up."
Kerger will wrap up her visit to Idaho Saturday.
Follow reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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