In 1969, then President Nixon was to cut funding significantly from public television and put the monies into the vietnam war. Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about fifteen minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs.
As you can see from the video the chairman of the subcommittee, John O. Pastore, was not previously familiar with Rogers’ work, and was sometimes described as short tempered, gruff and impatient (especially during hearing such as this). However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.” The following congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.
I truely believe Mr. Rogers saved public television.
With Mr. Rogers death in Feb. 27, 2003 I was deeply saddened. His show was one of the last truely great children’s shows not eaten up by marketing greed.
See how Mr. Rogers makes 20 million, and saves shows like Sesame Street in less than 7 minutes: