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Public Television FAQs

What 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.

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