published Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Save public broadcasting

The Republican-controlled U.S. House voted last week to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the agency that distributes money to the nation's 368 public television stations -- including WTCI and WNGH, the area's PBS affiliates -- and 934 public radio stations. The Corporation is a popular GOP target. It has been in the funding-reduction bulls-eye in the past, but always has survived. The current effort, however, is far more serious. It should be derailed.

The de-funding bill, part of the effort to whack $60 billion from the budget, still must pass the Senate. That seems unlikely, but public broadcasting fans can't assume that is the case. They must act.

Given the circumstances, those who believe that the nation's public broadcast stations provide a valuable service and a useful return on the dollar should make their desires known to their U.S. senators. Better that than take a chance that the CPB will fall victim to the GOP's long-standing desire to eliminate or sharply diminish what many Republicans believe -- incorrectly -- is a left-leaning organization. An objective view offers a different picture.

More than half of Americans use the public media each month. A broadcasting landscape without or with financially emasculated stations would be bleak. Paul Grove, president and CEO of WTCI, which counts on federal support for about 29 percent of its annual budget, offers a picture of what his station's schedule might look like without federal support. It wouldn't be familiar or attractive.

"We would not be able to carry "Sesame Street," "PBS Newshour" and all the other PBS favorites that our viewers appreciate. We'd also have to re-examine our entire mission as an educational station," Grove said. Indeed, the community would be the poorer if familiar and well-loved national and local programming had to be cut.

Congressional budget-cutters unfairly demonize public broadcasting. They might not approve of it, but the general populace does. The authoritative Roper Poll reports that Americans, for the seventh year in a row, say public broadcasting is the most trusted and unbiased institution among nationally known organizations and the most trusted source of news and public affairs among broadcast and cable sources. That approval, if Republicans care to read the poll, crosses all ideological and politically partisan lines.

Opponents of public broadcasting conveniently overlook such information. There's no argument here that the federal budget needs to be cut, but gutting public broadcasting will do little to achieve that goal. Numbers crunchers say elimination of public radio and TV funding would reduce the current budget deficit by less than three-thousandths of one percent. There are bigger and far, far better targets.

The effort to cut or eliminate federal funds for public radio and TV is short-sighted and contrary to public wishes. The Senate should resoundingly reject the effort to do so.

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fairmon said...

Public broadcasting should be funded totally by voluntary donations. No one wants their favorites to not be funded but there are several thousand similar three thousandths of one percent activities where borrowing money to fund them is not justified. Government funded and controlled broadcast or print media is not appropriate. Major spending reductions and tax increases are essential and the longer delayed the more drastic they will have to be.

This story will be repeated for every cause. Oh no, don't cut that cut something else that doesn't affect me. Some federal government departments should be abolished or drastically reduced. One example is the department of education which is funded enough to control state and local programs without being additive. Education is a state and local issue.

No one likes to admit we are broke, we are the largest debtor nation in the world. We are like a family with all their credit cards at the max but we don't want to give up our country club membership. It isn't a dem, pub or tea problem the national debt it is a national crisis.

February 23, 2011 at 4:26 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

PBS has been the only consistent source of quality television for decades.

Look at what sad junk the commercial stations provided as examples for their "educational" programming. It was one step above a decoder ring that told kids to "drink your Ovaltine." They didn't, and still don't, provide any educational programming at all.

PBS NewsHour and Frontline are about as close as we can get to modest reporting. Their commercial answer per topic is a 20 minute segment on 60 Minutes, which transmits once a week. Instead of providing in depth analysis on substantive topics, commercial television provided tabloid style hypothetical situation stories. It's easier to broadcast playtime than it is to do the homework.

If money is to be saved, conserved or otherwise provided through our telecommunications policies, we should consider the cost we provide to subsidize commercial transmission operations. Transmitting commercial television, over the air and through cabling, requires using a lot of electricity to overcome the inefficiencies of transmission. We have provided commercial broadcasters with significant tax breaks, loopholes and subsidies to meet their supply and transmission needs.

The very electricity they use is often the result of a government program.

The difference between the subsidies for one PBS station and the subsidies that most commercial broadcasters enjoy is that PBS admits it as part of their public image. Meanwhile, commercial stations would not be able to function at all if it were not for the logistic support people provided through tax breaks and subsidies.

Comcast, owned in effect by Microsoft, has had communications satellites orbiting the earth since the mid-90s. They didn't put it there, or keep it there, on their own.

Nationally, we recently handed NBC-Universal a massive merger with Comcast and Microsoft. Commercial broadcasters did not build the Internet they're exploiting for transmission and profit. When they had to rely on their own individual networks, the best they could do was provide limited closed-circuit TV and telephone intercom networks. Without government support for broadcasting, none of these telecom giants would be where they are today.

PBS, meanwhile, has to beg for scraps and handouts.

If you want to look for socialist payouts that need to be cut, look no further than the amoral and selfish practices of our wealthiest companies. That includes telecom companies and commercial broadcasters.

It's not Big Bird that's sucking the budget dry. It's the people who make profit off of airing political ads. Notice that, included in these attacks on PBS, there will be significant exceptions already made, assumed included to the benefit of larger commercial communications companies.

So, it's cut Big Bird, but finance "Jersey Shore" and, of course, Fox News.

Reject that Republican spending plan. Continue to support PBS.

February 23, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.
Walden said...

"So, it's cut Big Bird, but finance "Jersey Shore" and, of course, Fox News"

The Government does not fund Jersey Shore or Fox News.

February 23, 2011 at 10:29 a.m.
jpo3136 said...

The government funds both "Jersey Shore" and Fox News by providing such generous free services to the broadcast companies that those shows would be unproducable without the tax breaks and subsidies we have provided to the telecommunications industry.

February 23, 2011 at 11:38 a.m.
Walden said...

The real question is this, should the taxpayers be forced to subsidize the luxury that is public television?

February 23, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
ceeweed said...

I'll have to check with my life coach and religious adviser, Glen Beck, on this one before commenting. I am at a loss until he tells me what I think today.

February 24, 2011 at 8:25 a.m.
holdout said...

I happen to enjoy several shows on public radio and television. So I donate money. I would hate to see them go away but I would prefer that the government not spend one single penny on it. If public broadcasting then went out of business that would be too bad. The internet has taken over much of the role that public broadcasting traditionally served.

February 24, 2011 at 9:02 a.m.
Livn4life said...

We all donate mone to public radio and television with our tax dollars whether we like it or not. Many of us do not like a lot of what is on it. That's why people speak out. As for the lacking in regular/free television, you have a choice, turn it off. I can turn off publc television but still have to pay for it. Make the needed cuts across the board. That will not be happening, too much de-empowerment potential there.

February 24, 2011 at 10:11 a.m.
EaTn said...

When someone keeps their radio and tv tuned to the same stations 24/7, they neither know nor care what quality broadcasting is about. I'm afraid PBS is going into obscurity like the rest of middle America. Soon this whole issue will be mute; the next generation is beginning to look at most radio and tv as ancient in comparison to their hi-tech geek stuff.

February 24, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
holdout said...

The town crier and nailing broadsheets to the church door went out years ago as regular radio and TV seem to be headed out now. Could it be that they are reaching the end of their lifespan?

February 24, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

PBS is absolutely wonderful! It's the only television programing that my family enjoys. I would much rather cut the salaries and health benefits of our elected officials than funds for PBS. Clearly, it would be a much better investment when it comes to our tax dollars.

February 24, 2011 at 9:59 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

Somebody please point me to where in the Constitution it says the government is authorized to fund TV or radio stations.

Nah, didn't think you could.

February 24, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.
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