It seems like every time you turn on your television these days you're bombarded with messages concerning public television. Some are just ads for private commercial enterprises, but others advocate the benefits of public TV and ask for your moral support and some even ask for donations and financial support to keep public television alive. You may be wondering what the difference is between public television and "regular" television, or even why you should care. Here's some information that can help you figure it out.

What is public broadcasting?

The major difference between public broadcasting and commercial broadcasting is that public television is either partly or wholly supported by the public. Commercial broadcasters are aiming to make a profit at their television stations, and they do this by selling ad space during and between their programs. Particular types of programming attract specific viewership, so commercial broadcasters buy or develop content that reaches the audience their advertisers seek. For example, a reality show about romance will primarily appeal to young women, and ad time could be sold to an advertiser like Shaye Collezioni, which sells kids clothing. If you look at their website (follow the link), you'll see they are targeting a youthful female clientele. On the other hand, a commercial broadcaster's sports programming will have a higher proportion of viewers who might be interested in the use of shockwave therapy for pain management and healing. On the other hand, the aim of public networks is the disbursement of knowledge among the population, to educate, inform and entertain, without regard to creating programming that fits the needs of advertisers.

Who are public broadcasters?

The main public television station in Canada is the CBC, or Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is controlled and run by the government of Canada and available nationwide in both French and English. Positions at this network frequently turn up on Ottawa job searches for Federal Government positions. Other public broadcasters in Canada include provincial networks Knowledge (BC), TV Ontario, Saskatchewan's SKN network, and Tele-Quebec. Commercial cable companies are also required to operate local stations in their coverage areas - this is where you'll find your local talk shows and community events.

Who pays for public broadcasting?

You do. As a taxpayer, portions of your income taxes are used to fund programming on the CBC. If you live in a province with a provincial public TV network, your provincial taxes go towards its operation. CBC is also partially funded by advertising revenues (which is why you see do see ads on the CBC stations during breaks). Some of its affiliates, like CBC Newsworld, are entirely funded this way. Local community channels which are not run by cable companies are funded through donations (both corporate and private) while the cable access channels are funded by the company's revenues.

What's the issue between local TV and cable companies?

Since local community television is available free of charge in its catchment area, broadcasters do not receive any money from cable companies who carry their programming. Viewers, however, pay a fee to the cable companies to have this programming available to them. This issue is that local television broadcasters want the funding that is collected from the viewers for their service by the cable companies so they can continue to operate.

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