Friday, June 09, 2006


Sacred Pigs and PBS

Rick Klein carries water for public broadcasting in a myopic, partisan, and spin-laden piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

Does that sound harsh? Try out his opening paragraph:

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.

Is it too much to ask that a newspaper of the stature of the Globe require it’s reporters to have a basic understanding of business or budgeting? Aside, of course, from asking them to try to maintain objectivity in their reporting?

News flash to Mr. Klein and the Globe: If the Federal Government reduces funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which in turn funds National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), then those two organizations may in fact need to review their budgets and make cuts. If they have any sense or business acumen in broadcasting, they will surely make the cuts in less popular PBS and NPR programs.

Heck, that’s what Alan Chartock’s been saying for years. If you don’t support programs to coincide with their airing during fund drives, NPR will have no choice but to cut them.

Sheesh. You have to wonder how PBS and NPR ever made their way in the soup kitchen days when they were supported only by listener contributions, and received no federal funding of any kind.

That lasted a couple of decades, before the then-in-control Democratic Party sought to reward one of their stalwart bases of support with some pork barrel spending. Justified, of course, with the argument that there were things that you could only see or hear on PBS or NPR; commercial broadcasting wouldn’t waste their time on things that couldn’t pay their own way with advertising revenue.

That situation has entirely changed, of course, with the advent of the Internet, cbale and satellite broadcasting. There are no broadcasting subjects or formats into which some entrepreneur will not find a niche. Profitable or not, there are no holes now “uniquely served” by NPR or PBS, if ever there were.

Hard to imagine that William Buckley was one of their early “stars.” Today, it’s Garrison Keilor or Bill Moyers. Neither of these guys need public funding anymore, to be sure, let alone the merchandising empire of Jim Henson, Sesame Street and the Muppets, or other formerly “educational television” enterprises.

But those are inconvenient facts, in contrast to the scare imagery that PBS wants to force feed the public, with Klein as willing accomplice:

Most of the savings would come by eliminating subsidies for educational programs and grants for a number of technological upgrades.

Jan McNamara , a PBS spokeswoman, said the digital upgrade would have to be funded with money that is now being used for other programs, forcing almost all areas of public broadcasting to feel a pinch.

Paula Kerger , PBS's president and chief executive, said in a statement that the cuts would force the network to “drastically reduce the programming and services public television and public radio can provide to local communities.”

This is the public broadcaster’s trick, alarmist demagoguery. Bush wants to kill Big Bird. The Republicans want to put to sleep Clifford the Big Red Dog. They want to “silence us forever.” You know who we’re talking about, those Nazis.

Pure, unadulterated bilge. Talk about a sacred cow of public spending. Maybe that should be a “Sacred Pig?”

As Alan Chartock would indeed be the first to tell us, that would only mean they’d ask their loyal listeners to make up the difference. Which they would, if they can’t get Congress to force the rest of America to pay for it for them. How is this any different from other pork barrel spending items? Partisan ones, at that?

Full disclosure. I am a regular listener to NPR during weekday commute times. I admire their news programs, to a degree, when they aren’t talking politics with a decidedly progressive agenda in play. Or during local fund drives, when the insufferable Chartock openly panders to the base he understands only too well, damning the President specifically and Republicans generally throughout his extemporaneous comments.

I have contributed a couple of times, but not recently, and the NPR bias in story selection, and other editorializing in news reporting has gotten too much for me to allow me to financially support it.

In recent months I’ve had to listen to hysterical reports on the grave threat posed to our civil liberties, despite no concrete examples that affect anyone in the listening area. I’ve had to endure fawning portraits of the robust and thriving Chinese communist experiments in third world economic development, with not a mention of Chinese dissidents and the very real human rights abuses (and crimes against humanity) perpetrated by the (communist) Chinese government.

If there’s an issue that might involve a socialist, internationalist, or other progressive point of view, NPR is all over it. If it involves the US Military, or National Security, or anything to do with Terrorism, you can count of NPR finding some point of view that argues that it’s all the fault of the US, or at least the current administration. That’s their idea of “don’t take sides,” “citizen of the world,” objective journalism.

I could almost stomach that tendency if they could muster a portion of that objectivity for things political, but alas, Chartock has me beat there as well, offering free airtime for fawning “Me and Mario” kinds of broadcasting, without even an attempt at political balance.

Want to know what NPR and PBS dream of? Someday establishing themselves as a full scale, taxpayer funded broadcasting monopoly like the BBC, which they so admire. Where they can attack administrations and policies they find objectionable, all funded without the need to worry about fund drives, ratings, or other obvious means of viewer support. That’s what led them to suck at the Federal teat in the first place.

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