When PBS executives told station managers that the network was starting a 24-hour children’s programming network, the excitement in the room was hard to contain. Children’s educational programming has been a staple at PBS since the early days of Sesame Street and the Electric Company, which featured Mississippi’s own Morgan Freeman.
More than 7 million children ages 2-8 in the U.S. turn to PBS for children’s programming and for good reason: We know we provide educational content that parents can trust. Millions more parents use the interactive digital components associated with the programming as a way of encouraging their children to learn. At MPB, we are currently offering the channel to our over-the-air viewers (non-cable subscribers). We have advised all of the cable companies that carry our content about the 24-hour network and will do all that we can do entice them to find a place on the dial for this exciting initiative. We will keep you posted.
Speaking of excitement, February has a number of programs that are outstanding and worthy of mention in this space. I’ll begin with the Governor’s Arts Awards, which we will broadcast live on radio Feb. 16 and air on television Feb. 23. Once again, some of Mississippi’s greatest contributors to the arts will be honored, proving that few states have contributed as much to America’s arts culture as ours.
Marshall Ramsey’s Conversations also has a star-quality lineup, featuring renowned painter Bill Dunlap, writer and fiddler Harry Bolick, and Peter Zapletal, who is known for creating some of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s most famous puppets. Peter’s puppets are now on display at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs.
During February, we’ll continue to air weekly segments of @ISSUE, the only program in the state that goes in-depth in exploring news out of the state Capitol. Hosted by Wilson Stribling, @ISSUE gets a strong boost from analysts Brandon Jones and Austin Barbour. For those wanting to keep up-to-date with analysis from the legislature, Friday nights at 7:30 give you that opportunity.
I’d like to end this month’s summary with a word of thanks. Before the end of 2016, we launched our most aggressive car donation program to date. We talked about it on radio and television. We promoted it on our website. Our supporters responded by donating close to 30 cars, which have been sold and proceeds donated for the benefit of programming at MPB. It is easily the most we’ve ever had. The car drive serves as an example of what I’ve mentioned frequently in this column: MPB cannot be successful without our friends and supporters.