PBS will use US$11 million of its newly injected federal funding as seed money for two new initiatives in the early childhood area that will focus on teaching adults how to nurture children’s development at the preschool level, and for new programming concepts similar to Dragon Tales (CTW) and Between the Lions (WGBH), the first two programs commissioned by PBS as part of the Ready to Learn service.
This service received the additional funds as part of an overall US$50-million increase for PBS in the most recent U.S. budget approved by Congress in October. The US$11 million represents roughly a 20% increase in the total Ready to Learn budget, raising the annual allotment to about US$50 million, according to John Hollar, executive VP, learning services at PBS. US$6.6 million, or 60%, will go toward program development; the remaining 40%, or US$4.4 million, is targeted to outreach efforts. The funding will be available beginning fiscal year 2000, which begins in May 1999.
The new revenue comes at a welcome time for the Ready To Learn service, whose member station participation has grown from 20, three years ago, to 135 today, with a corresponding rise in the cost of producing outreach and training materials to meet the growing demand.
The jump in federal funding from US$250 million to $300 million marks the first time PBS received an increase since 1995.