Jonathan Yardley really missed the mark in "Public Television, Bread and Circuses" {Style, Nov. 2}. Mr. Yardley would have us believe that the evening of all-American music that Maryland Public Television is presenting this New Year's Eve may not be in the best long-term interest of public TV. My response is that an evening showcasing the best in American music -- featuring the country's top jazz stars and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra -- is in the finest tradition of public TV, as well as an alternative to the "rock-and-roll" specials that dominate commercial TV on New Year's Eve.

Unfortunately, Mr. Yardley believes there are only two camps in public TV: educators versus entertainers. He unfairly lumps MPT into the latter category. Mr. Yardley argues that public TV stations such as MPT are increasingly programming for ratings and revenues, that we are abandoning talking-heads programs such as Bill Moyers'. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Maryland Public Television has broadcast every single program that Bill Moyers has made for public TV, including the Constitution minutes. His upcoming series on "God and Politics" is scheduled for prime time Dec. 16.

The issue isn't mission versus ratings. Ratings, in fact, do not translate into dollars for public TV, as they do for our commercial colleagues. Corporations affiliate with public TV because it is good public relations to be identified with a quality product. Members subscribe to public TV because they want to support a high-quality alternative.

MPT's record during the past year speaks for itself. We have devoted many hours of our prime-time schedule and theme weeks to locally produced programs focusing on the problems of Maryland's teen-agers, the future of public education, the AIDS crisis and how to prevent heart attacks.

Our commitment to public affairs is further evidenced by our weekly examination of state issues on "Maryland Week." We also offer the most comprehensive coverage of the General Assembly, "State Circle" and programs such as "Ask the Governor," in which viewers can question their elected officials through electronic town meetings.

In the area of education, I remind Mr. Yardley that MPT devotes one-third of its broadcast day to instructional programming for Maryland's schools. It is a sad fact that these award-winning instructional programs rarely receive much attention in the press. MPT also leads the nation in enrollments for "College of the Air." More than 8,000 people take advantage of the opportunity to learn through televised courses on our six-station network.

With cable cutting into the many niches that public TV has comfortably occupied over the years, public TV has to change in order to continue to grow -- and to ensure its survival. The challenge facing us today is not ratings, but how to do our job even better. RAYMOND K. K. HO President, Maryland Public Television Owings Mills, Md.