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We are what we watch

I meet the most interesting people in airports.

Sometimes it’s because of a schedule glitch of some sort. That’s where I first met Mark Stanislawski, president and CEO of Southern Oregon Public Television, in a queue at the United Airlines terminal in Newark, New Jersey, of all places. Our first leg home via San Francisco to Medford had been hopelessly delayed, which provided an opportunity to talk about what we did with our lives when not waiting for a plane.

Nearly a year passed since our chance meeting on the East Coast, but I had stashed his business card and recently paid him a visit to learn in depth about SOPTV. I had long been a fan of public television, ever since Emily and I watched "Sesame Street" and "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" together. The recent noise about the federal defunding of public television, a poor choice of belt-tightening in my opinion, had nothing to do with my decision to cover it now, though the timing is interesting. Mr. Stanislawski had, in fact, just returned from DC, where he spent time working for resources and support.

He shared that the portion of budget required for public television for the country amounts .01 percent, or approximately $1.35 per taxpayer per year — not much considering the return.

I began to consider the quality and diversified programming of public TV, and how much I enjoy it. From music to mysteries to thoughtful news programs, people from every walk of life share a slice of the pie. It represents people from all demographics working together to support and try to understand one another better and to learn things.

I compared a modest sustaining membership, $45 per year, to what I currently fork over for all those inane cable channels I never watch and the parade of pharmaceutical commercials I mute. I unload about $100 a month for this privilege. With a digital television and antenna, I don't need cable or a dish to pull in all three of the channels SOPTV offers. They added SOPTV World on 8.2, broadcasting signature nonfiction documentaries, science and news programming (think "NOVA," "Frontline" and "Nature") and SOPTV Create at 8.3, covering all things DIY, including cooking, gardening and travel.

I can’t wait to watch, “To Walk Invisible: The Lives of the Bronte Sisters” tonight at 9 p.m. It’s on my calendar and is one of many riveting offerings on Masterpiece Theater. Remember “Downton Abbey, “Victoria” or “Sherlock?” “My Story of Service” is a local production showcasing personal stories told by veterans from WWII through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 30,000 shows available on its website.

Thank you to all involved for bringing us the cream on SOPTV. And thank you to local sponsors who join the effort. Donating online at www.soptv.org was simple, painless and they gifted me. As its slogan says, “TV worth watching is worth supporting.” I could add, we are what we take in. It’s true with how we fuel our bodies, and it’s true with how we feed our minds. Children are watching.

Stanislawski said we are fortunate to have such great support here. Southern Oregon gets the value of public television.

“This is an interesting market for public television," he said. "There are a lot of people who watched and listened from where they lived before, and they’re pleased to find it here. And that’s a good thing.”

Public television aids in bridging the divisions we face with knowledge and understanding.

Big Bird says, "Hey."

— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Visit her Facebook page at Peggy Dover-writer and contact her at pcdover@hotmail.com