In recent days, much debate has centered around the value of federal funding for public broadcasting. While I understand the critical need to address budget concerns in Washington, the cost of losing a national treasure like public broadcasting far outweighs any budgetary benefit.
Right now, members of Congress are debating plans to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding for public television and radio stations.
At Iowa Public Television, the $2.3 million received from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting amounts to 13 percent of the network's budget. IPTV then uses that money to leverage additional dollars for several times that amount.
This funding is absolutely crucial to the network's future, especially in light of substantial cuts to the network's budget from other sources over the last three years.
As president of the Iowa Public Broadcasting Board - and as a citizen, business person, parent, and grandparent - I value the critical role Iowa Public Television plays in the fabric of our state. Our members of Congress need to hear from us about the importance of this federal funding.
As a business owner, I know the importance of data. These numbers tell a great story:
More than 1.5 million Iowans use Iowa Public Television's services each week.
More than 260,000 of them are children.
Nine out of 10 Iowans use Iowa Public Television's programming and services at least once a month.
The network does more than produce and broadcast quality television programming.
As the state's largest classroom, more than 70 percent of Iowa's teachers say they use Iowa Public Television in their classes to supplement their teaching.
To expand the network's reach, and to make the network's programs available any time, any place, viewers can access thousands of programs at www.iptv.org, the network's website. This site also serves as the home for interactive, educational activities for families.
Nationally, 170 million Americans rely on public broadcasting for programming they can trust. And for that service, each U.S. taxpayer contributes around $1 per year.
And while those numbers are impressive, to be sure, the reach and use of the service only tells half the story.
After all, you can't put a dollar value on the impact of trusted friends like Elmo and Big Bird on preschoolers' lives - on the look on a toddler's face when she recognizes a letter for the first time on "Super WHY!"
No one could measure the possibilities imagined by a young boy watching a world-class symphony concert, or the parts of the world a home-bound resident can see thanks to Iowa Public Television's travel programs.
It's easy to take for granted that the network of Market to Market and Masterpiece will always be there - that they'll always find the funds necessary to provide us all with this service we love.
Whether you watch Iowa Public Television every day, once a week, or a few times a month, this network is an important resource for you and for your fellow Iowans. And it is at risk.
It is time for each of us to take action. The threats facing public broadcasting funding are serious, and their impact could be devastating.
Your voice will make a difference.
Please let your elected representatives know what you think of proposed cuts to public broadcasting.
When you call, you can have the satisfaction of knowing you've done your part for the network you enjoy. You'll also help maintain a critical lifeline for neighbors and friends who will never be able to thank you.
So, on their behalf, I thank you for standing up for public television.
Robert W. Hall is president of the Iowa Public Broadcasting Board.