PBS Passes the New Media Test

When you think of progressive media outlets, do you think of PBS?

If not, you should. They are on the right end of handling the changes confronting all traditional media.

I was part of the crowd today that heard PBS President & CEO Paula Kerger address the Detroit Economic Club. Here’s what I took away from the speech:

-PBS has partnered with iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Vuze and BitTorrent to make its programming accessible, beyond TV. It also puts the vast majority of its content online, via its Web site and those of its local stations and has a signifcant presence on Facebook and Myspace.
-A recent episode of Frontline has been viewed more than 5 million times via Web stream.
-PBS’ NewsHour is more highly rated, on average than CNN, on average. Why? Here are a couple of reasons Kerger explained: Even in a world with “500 Channels” – studies over 5 years show that PBS is the most trusted institution in America. And with a focus on content, not on profits, PBS can stay out of the partisan fray and cover the current election with depth, straight down the middle.

Kerger told the audience that “commercial news is failing us.” She talked about how cable news has been reduced to presenting “the tiny, the trivial and opinions.” She opined that the national commericial TV networks, broadcast and cable, as well as the blogosphere, feeds the “political gridlock” in Washington. Those comments prompted a lot of nodding heads in the crowd.

Here’s another statstic to ponder that Kerger threw at us today – even with Americans heading online in droves, the average American set a record last year by watching 4 hours and 35 minutes of TV… a day.

By embracing new platforms and staying true to its mission, and with its local stations doing the things that commercials broadcasters can’t or won’t do, Public TV can have a future in the new media environment.