PBS was important to me as a kid, in the 1960s and 1970s, before the advent of cable, before there was a choice of more than a handful of channels, before alternatives to the commercial/public split in networks, and before international production and/or distribution agreements became commonplace.
Today I sometime wonder if PBS wouldn't be better as a restructured entity, not for any perceived taxpayer savings and not because I'm some Tea Party numbskull alleging Liberal Bias, but because the system seems such an awkward hybrid, because it doesn't live up to its potential.
PBS seems a lot of things, but very few done well, and a lot of those things quite redundant: the same five Brit-com series run daily for decade after decade after decade; Yanni at the Acropolis, John Tesh at Red Rock, Peter Paul & Mary fat and old and still boring, NOVA which makes a time when science has never been more exciting as dull as old dishwater in its choices; Suze Orman in that same shit brown leather jacket...
Instead of being a dusty old chocolate sampler box aimed not to offend anyone too much, PBS could split as three or four good things: isolate the children's programming; isolate the classic Brit-coms for those who could (and maybe do) watch the 69 episodes of Ar You Being Served? 10,000 times; assemble a news and documentary network (like the still excellent American Experience); assemble a network of original drama and programming, with "classics" from its archives shown at off-hours.
I get 10 HBO channels, 7 Showtime channels, and four PBS channels - but nine times out of ten all showing the same thing at the very same time.
The best British programming isn't in the exclusive grasp of PBS anymore (nor, inexplicably, in BBC-America's), but is available dispersed among many networks. The Smithsonian Channel has been around for four years as a limited effort in conjunction with Showtime but it often has better science and arts and history programming, with more variety than PBS. The Shorts Channel, DirecTV's in-house Audience, and other networks offer interesting things, while PBS trots out the Four Dead Tenors in Taos for the 179th time.