In The Public Interest

Viewers come to television to be entertained, but they also come to get answers, find meaning and learn skills. B&C's In The Public Interest looks at what TV does to help—from Lifetime's fight to stop domestic abuse to stations that give up valuable airtime for political debates to stations that provide information when the sky in Tornado Alley grows ominous. On these pages, we'll take a look at the medium's remarkable ability to do good, whether it's producing programs to save America's historic sites or teaching kids about how to outsmart schoolyard bullies. When PBS aired a special on Alzheimer's disease, millions of baby boomers watched to see what they can do to prepare as their parents age.

Court TV's Choices and Consequences campaign teaches kids that crime really doesn't pay. For 15 years, NBC has produced The More You Know public-service announcements (PSAs) that are so good they earned a Peabody Award. Last year, Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, contributed more than $1.2 million to 228 organizations in cities where it operates. Nationally, networks, stations, cable networks and cable systems provide thousands of PSAs a year. Television gives back. It's not all altruism. As broadcasters learned when the FCC pushed them into doing news several decades ago, providing public service also returns a profit. The National Association of Broadcasters says its member stations invested $9.6 billion in public service last year. The cable industry doesn't produce a figure, but undoubtedly it's in the billions, too. In 2003, Cox Cable alone doled out an estimated $105 million in cash and other contributions. Viacom's Know HIV/AIDS campaign received $120 million in public-service advertising last year. B&C
admires the stars of the TV firmament: In the world of television, we found, there's a world of good.