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February 21, 2005
Gray Lady Incoherent On Public Broadcasting

The New York Times wrote an editorial on the slow demise of PBS that has to be read to be disbelieved. It argues that Bill Moyers is a centrist and that the problem with this government-financed program is too much accountability and not enough financing:

Since its beginnings more than three decades ago, public television has served its audience best as an independent, creative medium, and its goal has been to avoid political and commercial taint. Now, the Public Broadcasting Service, that loose network of 349 public stations, is under assault politically and economically. The need for money to pay for expensive shows has driven it to sell commercial time, and as a result, each year offers less relief from the noisy commercialism on other channels.

How can a government program ever be called "independent"? By that measure, Armstrong Williams is an independent voice among the punditry, having been freed of the need to find a commercial market for his voice. The problem with PBS isn't a loss of its independence -- it's a loss of its dependence on government bailouts. PBS wants to eat its cake and have it too -- they want government financing without government accountability. And now that Congress has passed from liberal to conservative control, PBS and the Gray Lady don't care for the new management's priorities on the money it sends to PBS.

The simple rule for artists who accept patronage is that he who pays the piper calls the tune. PBS can stop accepting public financing if it doesn't like politics, but it can't pretend its apolitical when it comes hat in hand to Congress year after year for its operating budget.

And as ultraconservatives and bottom liners circle, PBS appears to be too accommodating in response. When conservatives attacked the respected Bill Moyers, labeling him a dangerous liberal, PBS offered Tucker Carlson and Paul Gigot. Whatever slight liberal flavor might be dug out of the Moyers broadcasts, those are openly ideological conservative editorialists. Will they do investigations like Mr. Moyers? Will they dig beneath the large, loud surface of TV punditry? If not, how, please, is PBS different from MSNBC?

Perhaps they will display better investigative technique than Moyers, who slandered James Watt by claiming that Watt commenting approvingly on the destruction of the forests so that Jesus would return sooner rather than later. He later apologized for not doing his research, but that kind of knee-jerk leftist tripe has been a hallmark of Moyers for the decades since he left LBJ's employ in 1968. If the NYT truly thinks that Moyers only provides a "slight liberal flavor", then the NYT doesn't watch PBS either, or its own politics have skewed so far to the left that it has surrendered all relevancy.

The Times argues that politicians should not be able to trim PBS to its liking. Balderdash. PBS gets taxpayer money, and the taxpayers' representatives should have a direct say in how it's spent. Would the Times argue equally for simply turning over the entire defense budget to the Pentagon and allow Defense to spend the money without oversight from Congress? They'd scream from the rooftops of Manhattan if anyone proposed anything that stupid, and they'd be right to do so. Why should PBS get government funds without similar oversight?

The crux of the issue lies in the government's role in producing news and entertainment for its citizens. In a free society that protects speech and maintains a wide variety of sources for information, PBS is an anachronism, if it ever was relevant at all. The best solution would be for the government to withdraw all support, financial and regulatory, for PBS and force them to exist on their own. That would give PBS the independence that the NYT treasures and that never existed except in their own minds.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 21, 2005 6:22 AM

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» Alfred Kinsey, Joe McCarthy, PBS and the truth from The Cassandra Page
MSM/DNC falsehoods often appear only in the form most easily disposed of down the memory hole - just in case the lie is later exposed. The film documentary appears briefly, the smear is accomplished, and the viewer has nothing to which to refer if th... [Read More]

Tracked on February 21, 2005 12:20 PM

» Doing My Work For Me from PBS Watch
Captain Ed at Captain's Quarter's is doing my work for me, and doing a great job. His "Gray Lady Incoherent on Public Broadcasting" is an excellent dissection of PublicBS and the liberal support for it as exemplified by the New York Times. [Read More]

Tracked on February 22, 2005 10:14 PM

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