Look guys, if that’s what it comes down to I, and many others like me, will just pick up the check. That’s ok, it’s a good thing and very worth while. However, don’t think that means I’m giving up letting you know just what your doing by canceling funding for PBS and NPR.
For a large part of the country the local public radio station is the only one they can get. There is just not enough of an audience to support a commercial station. And, as I’ve stated before, most of us and our children grew up watching Mr Rodgers, Sesame Street and later, Reading rainbow. Those are just two of the reasons that I’m confident that public broadcasting’s funding will not be cut.
I’ve heard the argument that PBS should compete in the “free” market. The rationale being that “if those programs had any audience, they will do fine.” That’s the whole point, in the “free” commercial market you don’t get shows like Masterpiece Theatre, Nova, and Frontline. If they were commercially viable they would already exist. Instead we have “Who wants to be a millionaire,” and “the biggest looser.” The commercial market is doggedly slavish to the widest possible appeal. They have to be, that’s where the money is.
It’s really a conflict of ideals. The makers of Sesame street wouldn’t want commercials because they aren’t trying to sell kids and parents something, they are trying to teach them something. In commercial television usually the reverse is true. Would those same people who believe that public broadcasting should go commercial allow public schools to run ads between classes?
Public broadcasting lives up to it’s design goal, to provide arts, unbiased news and culture to the widest possible audience. The United States is unique in that the Public stations are almost all local and operate independently. NPR and PBS are program production networks that create and supply content, although a great deal of network programming is created by local stations. Ever heard of “This old House” the show that spawned a thousand other shows and at least 3 cable networks? It was created and is still produced by WGBH in Boston, channel 2.
In this country Public broadcasting has been around since there was broadcasting, the first broadcast stations were not commercial. That came later. These first stations were run by colleges and universities disseminating music and information for free. However, there were no public broadcasting laws until the 1940’s, which still gives them a 70 year history.
Perhaps someone doesn’t want to pay for a public service they just don’t use. It would make sense, if democracy worked that way. Unfortunately we pay for a lot of things we don’t actually use. I’ve never driven on route 80 in San Francisco, should I have them roll that part up, or just refuse to pay my taxes? I don’t live in New Orleans, why am I paying for the Army corps of engineers to fix their levy? For that matter I have absolutely no interest in using or deploying nuclear weapons, and that costs more than both of those. The difference here is with those other things I don’t have much choice, for Public Broadcasting all I have to do is turn the dial. It’s been made available, if I don’t choose to use it, that’s my decision.
It’s amazing to me that nationalistic voices can descry the movement of the New York Stork Exchange and consign something as truly American as Public Broadcasting to the trash bin in the same breath. It is an uniquely american institution, no other broadcast system in the world is quite like it.
Just a word to those who say that it is not an unbiased public reporter. If you think that, either you never watch the news shows like MacNeil Lehrer or Frontline (by the way did you catch this weeks show? Nasty. Makes my blood boil to see women treated like that.) or you’re looking for broadcasting directly to your particular point of view. PBS and NPR are scrupulously fair and open minded. I challenge anyone to find more than a handful of explicit on-air incidents showing bias to one particular viewpoint or another.
PBS and NPR news are by no means perfect but they are easily one of the best and most thorough news organizations in the world, and we get them for a pittance. Purportedly they cost us each $1.35 a year. Do anyone really think that by cutting the funding it will put that money back in our pockets? Then I have a lovely bridge to sell you. It’s not about getting the money back, it’s only about where it goes. Either into 368 television and 934 radio stations and all the jobs those mean or some program that will probably not reach you directly every day.
As a last note, think about what you want to leave the next generation, will your legacy be American Idol or Sesame street?
In the coming days we will hear many arguments for and against NPR and PBS, but just remember even if they retain their public funding you are listening or watching mostly on our dime, the contributors to these noble institutions, and your welcome to it. Enjoy.
P.S. To The honorable Governor Chris Christie, who has decided to sell our local Public station WNJN to Philadelphia’s WHYY or New York’s WNYC, because he “doesn’t want to be in the television business…” you suck, dude.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011