History of Public Access Television
Public access television has existed in one form or another for more than twenty- five years. As with most innovations in communication, public access television did not spring from any single place or event. But the roots of contemporary public access television can be traced to two primary sources, both dating to the mid- 1960s. The first was the passage of the Public Broadcasting Act by the United States Congress in 1967. The second was the advent of the National Film Board of Canada's service organization, Challenge for Change. These two developments created both the regulatory and philosophic environment in which public access television could germinate.
The philosophic and legal foundation for public access television in the United States was embedded in the letter and the spirit of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This legislation created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), based in Washington, D.C. and funded by Congress. One of the first tasks of the CPB was to create the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), a programming arm for this newly formed corporation. The CPB is primarily a funding organization, while PBS facilitates the production and acquisition of programming.
Two years after the formation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Public Broadcasting Service began broadcasting. Examples of early PBS programming include "The Great American Dream Machine," "an iconoclastic public affairs magazine," and "The 51st State," which covered the politics and culture of New York City. Although early PBS programming was innovative and sometimes controversial (as is public access television programming today), it