Remarks of Fred Esplin
General Manager, KUED, Salt Lake City, Utah
Before the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Broadcasters
January 16, 1998 -- Washington, D.C.
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to share one public broadcaster's perspective on how public TV might better serve the interests of education in the digital age. I applaud you for taking up the challenge in the important work before you to ensure that the public interest is protected and advanced as broadcasters are entrusted with this finite and significant public resource.
As you know, public broadcasters are committed to harness the most current technology in the service of education and the public interest. This is a commitment we have had from the beginning, which we have today, and which we will carry with us into the digital era.
Our commitment to education is manifest in four areas: early childhood services; technology integration into K-12 education; work force education and training; and digital service accessibility. I'd like to briefly share my view of what we are doing in each of these four areas.
First, public broadcasters are committed to provide programming which helps with early childhood development and school readiness. Currently, 120 stations covering most of the country provide Ready to Learn, a comprehensive programming and outreach service designed to assure school readiness and success for children. While many public TV stations cannot carry this service today because of their commitment to daytime in-school instructional programming, in a multiplexed DTV world, this important service can be made available to every child, parent and care-giver in America.
Second, as you know public TV has a strong track record in using the latest technologies to provide K-12 educational programming. Some 30 million students in 70,000 schools are currently served by public television, and we're in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for delivering new services in the digital era. In Utah, for example, we're already partnering with our 40 school districts and over 60 public libraries in the development of on-line services, CD ROMs, videocassettes, and study guides to supplement our instructional broadcast services. We anticipate building on this collaboration by offering a dedicated SDTV service for the public schools with integrated on-line and broadcast data instructional support materials. And we are not alone in making such plans.
Third, public television also has a proven track record in both adult literacy and workforce education, and we plan to leverage the features of digital technology to meet critical workforce needs. Already public TV provides over 70 college-credit TV courses to more than 400,000 students each academic year, not to mention a broad array of professional development courses and teleconferences to organizations nationwide. In Utah we're already working with colleges and universities in the creation and delivery of telecourses and in-service training, and we are planning for a dedicated SDTV service to make these services available to even more students and working professionals.
And, finally, public television is and always will be committed to serve the unserved and under-served populations in our country: those, who because of economic, geographic, physical, cultural, or language barriers, have been left behind in the commercial marketplace. Public TV pioneered the development of open and closed captioning for the deaf, descriptive video services, and radio reading services for the blind or visually-impaired. Digital technology will give us the flexibility and capacity to expand our commitment to these populations and ensure that educational services are available to all Americans.
In closing, I would note that in Utah we recognized that it will take a coordinated, active partnership among public broadcasters, schools, colleges, and libraries to realize the full potential I've outlined here. We've already banded together to create The Utah Education Network to that end. Working together we are providing distribution through broadcast, two-way interactive audio and video, Internet access and wide area computer networking. And, we're developing instructional content for each of these means of delivery to make certain Utah's students are not road kill on the information super-highway. Along with my public broadcasting colleagues throughout the country, we are looking forward to harnessing the potential of digital television to work with, and advance the goals of, our partners in public and higher education, and the public libraries.