Public broadcasting threatened… again

From the Boston Globe, June 8, 2006:

House Republicans yesterday revived their efforts to slash funding for public broadcasting, as a key committee approved a $115 million reduction in the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that could force the elimination of some popular PBS and NPR programs.

On a party-line vote, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health and education funding approved the cut to the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes money to the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. It would reduce the corporation’s budget by 23 percent next year, to $380 million.

No one who watches PBS or listens to NPR with any regularity can really believe there’s a significant liberal bias. It’s a pointy-headed bias. Maybe a disproportionate number of pointy heads are liberal. That I don’t know, but George Will can go a long way towards alleviating any pointy headedness deficit the conservatives might suffer.

What I do know is that I spent over 15 years working on a number of prime time PBS series, and fairness and balance were the primary concern of every producer I worked with, no matter their often unknowable personal biases.

This saga drips of irony. First, those who would like to see an end to government subsidies to public broadcasting often cite the elitist nature of public television fare. If one’s definition of elitism is anything that rises above Deal or No Deal, well then PBS is guilty as charged. I don’t find programs like Frontline’s Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero elitist. The elitism comes from those who argue that the best of PBS fare will migrate to satellite and cable. Maybe. But that excludes 15% of American television viewers, many of them unable to afford even basic cable service. There’s a continued role for public broadcasting well into the future.

The second bit of irony is that any internet-based petition drive is likely to be ignored by the net-savvy because so many save PBS hoaxes have already circulated around the net. A conspiracy theorist might wonder whether if this is no accident.

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