Rethinking the Collective Memory: Mister Rogers, Senator Pastore, and Public Broadcasting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the spring of 1969 Fred Rogers quietly offered testimony to US Senator John Pastore about the special kind of content he and other public broadcasters produce. In the decades since, his comments have become a popular viral video used as a tool in the fight for public broadcasting in the United States. But the video’s narrative of Rogers emotionally moving the “crusty” Pastore to fund public broadcasting is not the whole picture. This study explores the collective memory around Rogers and Pastore interactions and examines US Senate transcripts, contemporary news coverage, and an appraisal of the testimony’s legacy to provide greater nuance to this viral video.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-266
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journalism
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Johnson Administration took notice. After mentioning the Carnegie Commission Report in his 1967 State of the Union Address, Johnson was able to get the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 through Congress and on his desk for signature in November of 1967. In attendance at the signing was fellow Democrat and Johnson ally, Rhode Island Senator John H. Pastore. With five million dollars of federal appropriations as seed money, combined with donations from corporate, individual, and local and state governments, the federal public broadcasting system was established. The CPB was officially formed and quickly began to find experts from in and out of the public broadcasting sphere to help get the corporation up and running. However, the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 side-stepped the excise tax recommendations and provided no mechanism for funding the system beyond annual federal appropriations. Two years later, this would prove potentially disastrous for the fledgling CPB.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Journalism Historians Association.


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