Public TelevisionWhat is public television?
Public television in the United States is extraordinarily diverse. It is made up of local stations, national providers of programming (like APT) and organizations devoted to technical support, management assistance and research.
The public television community consists of 340+ individually owned and operated stations, with some markets containing one or more public television stations. Local and regional interests and other factors play a key role in program purchasing and scheduling strategies for individual stations.
Many mistakenly refer to the entire public television system as “PBS.” However, The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is not a network (like NBC or FOX), but rather a member-based association of public television stations organized to buy and distribute programs. APT is the second-largest distributor of public television programming, next to PBS. Other distributors include NETA (National Educational Telecommunications Association) and ITVS (Independent Television Service).
Each month, PBS publishes a recommended primetime schedule for several weeknights, and most stations adhere to it. However, stations still need additional programming to air during the rest of the week, including primetime hours, evenings, early and late fringe and fundraising drives. For this additional programming, these stations most often turn to American Public Television (APT).
APT’s diverse catalog — representing nearly 4,000 hours of non-commercial programming — helps stations customize and differentiate their broadcast schedules to meet local interests and market demands.
FundingWho funds public television?
Public broadcasting stations receive financial support from a variety of sources. Membership contributions to local stations and "friends of..." groups account for the largest single revenue source for public media entities. Use APT’s Station Finder to locate the station nearest you and support their efforts to educate, enlighten and entertain your community.
Other public television funding sources include:
State and Local Governments
Colleges & Universities
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Please visit The Corporation for Public Broadcasting for more information about public media.
ProgrammingI want to watch an APT show, but my local public television station does not carry it. Why?
The public television community consists of 340+ individually owned and operated stations. Local and regional interests and other factors play a key role in whether your station purchases and schedules a program. Decisions are made on a market-by-market basis because a program that enjoys popularity in one part of the country may not resonate in another. Contact your local public television station to express your interest in a particular APT program. It does not guarantee placement, but it will help communicate your programming preferences to the station’s scheduling manager.
Other reasons may include:
The program may still be in the production stage and not yet available for broadcast.
The rights term between APT and the producer expired and therefore, your station may no longer air the program.
My local public television station no longer runs my favorite show. When will it return?
In today’s television landscape, a series can run for years or as few as two weeks. And each month, your station must accommodate required (“Common Carriage”) PBS series, locally produced programs and timely shows from other distributors. Sometimes, a series goes on hiatus or goes back into production to create new episodes. (This process can last months and/and years.) Some producers simply decide to cease production and move on to other projects. For these reasons, your favorite show may no longer air. However, older seasons may continue to run for years because of their popularity within your local television market.
When will my station rebroadcast my favorite program?
Use APT’s Station Finder to locate the station nearest you and contact their programming department directly for information about rebroadcast times and schedule change requests.
Can I watch APT shows online?
Most producers only grant APT rights for broadcast, not new media. As a result, APT currently does not stream any of its full-length titles. In rare cases, viewers may watch some locally produced documentaries and limited series on select public television websites. (Check the individual program pages on APTonline.org for links.) APT is working closely with our producers to secure the rights to stream full-length programs on our website. We hope to offer this service in the near future. Stay tuned!
Product InformationWhere can I purchase a copy of a program I saw on public television?
Public television programs come from a variety of sources and thus, program-related merchandise (DVD, Blu-Ray, CDs, books, etc…) may be purchased in a variety of ways. If you cannot order through your local public television station, then we encourage you to check the individual program page on APTonline.org. There, you will often find product details, pricing and ordering details. If you still cannot find product information, then we suggest you visit the producer’s website listed on the APT program pages. Otherwise, no merchandise is currently available.
Where can I find a program that aired many years ago?
Generally, APT is only given rights to distribute a program to stations for a few years. At that time, the rights revert to the producers, who may sell it to a commercial channel or distribute it via some other means. Unfortunately, stations may not broadcast even the most popular of the older programs without the rights. The same applies for DVDs. Video distribution lies at the discretion of the producer/copyright holder. Also, if your "favorite old show" dates back to the 1970s and '80s, most producers at that time did not consider video distribution.
ContactsHow do I locate, contact and/or support my local public television station?
Use APT’s Station Finder to locate the station nearest you.
How can I contact the host, guests or producer of a show I saw on public television?
Search APTonline.org’s program pages for both merchandise and contact information.
If you can't find what you're looking for, e-mail APT’s Viewer Services department and we will pass along your comments and/or questions to the appropriate party.