Public television, which started life as “educational television” in the 1950s, is now providing emergency at-home learning services to assist students, families, teachers, administrators, and school systems in all 50 states during the coronavirus outbreak.

This crisis response builds on years of public television’s success in education, including the work of WLIW21, Long Island’s PBS station. Our early childhood television programs have been proven to help close the achievement gap between children in lower-income families and their more affluent peers. Local stations across the country have served more than a million elementary and secondary school teachers for years through PBS Learning Media, a collection of tens of thousands of interactive digital learning objects curated from the best of decades of public television’s national and local programming.

But in the wake of the new pandemic, WLIW21 is pursing our education mission still further, clearing our daytime schedules to broadcast grade-appropriate instructional programming, creating and curating educational games and other online content, and working with state departments of education and local school districts to ensure that at least some of the established K-12 curriculum is covered in these unprecedented circumstances.

WLIW21’s sister stations THIRTEEN serving New York City and NJTV serving New Jersey have created similar at-home learning initiatives that best serve their communities during this national crisis. It’s educational television when the Tri-State New York Metropolitan area needs it most, and it’s an important return on the investments the federal government and dozens of state governments have been making in our work for decades. WLIW21, THIRTEEN and NJTV are also providing critical assistance through public safety communications and local programming that gives our communities trustworthy information about every aspect of the health emergency.

All of this work education, public safety and civic leadership is what America’s public television stations do every day, in addition to broadcasting the national programs people love.

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 requires us to serve everybody, everywhere, every day for free. And WLIW21 is doing just that. We’re honored that this long-standing commitment can be of such benefit in a crisis no one could have predicted.

Diane Masciale is General Manager of WLIW21.

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