Do we really need Public Broadcasting?

 

Putting National Public Radio’s firing of Juan Williams aside, the more important question is why does NPR (or PBS, for that matter) continue to exist in this era of hundreds of cable and satellite outlets and thousands of radio stations and hundreds of thousands of Internet choices?

It can’t be for balance. Just ask any liberal whether he thinks there aren’t enough conservative voices on the air, and he’ll probably laugh at you. And you may have heard that conservatives believe there’s a glut of liberal voices. It also can’t be for variety. What with The History Channel, The Smithsonian Channel, Logo, The Food Network, et al, what voids do these publicly-funded networks fill? And it certainly can’t be for tolerance of opposing views; just ask Juan Williams.

I think both NPR and PBS provide some really good programming (where else can I get my fix of doo-wop music and Fawlty Towers reruns?), but as deficits explode, it might be a good time to ask whether the need for so-called public broadcasting has passed.

There are 68 comments.

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  1. Inactive

    It’s the only place I can go to get away from those damned game shows.

    • #1
    • October 21, 2010 at 7:57 am
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  2. Inactive

    If memory serves, George F Will asked this question many years ago and was roundly denounced by the usual suspects.

    • #2
    • October 21, 2010 at 7:59 am
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  3. Member

    Public broadcasting goes on the list of (upper) middle class entitlements that need to be expunged along with Stafford loans and (gulp) Medicare and Social Security for those to whom those checks represent mad money.

    • #3
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:00 am
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  4. Contributor
    Pat Sajak Post author
    Kenneth: It’s the only place I can go to get away from those damned game shows. · Oct 21 at 7:57am

    Okay, any other reasons?

    • #4
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:01 am
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  5. Member

    My reaction to the Williams story was exactly the same. Of all the government programs that should be completely abolished, NPR is the most obvious.

    In fact, combine NPR’s continued existence with the apparent willingness of many progressives to silence conservative talk radio, and you have a recipe for disaster. There would still be conservative TV and books, you say? If progressives ever manage to shut down conservatives on radio, they would have already set the groundwork for excluding us from other media.

    • #5
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:05 am
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  6. Inactive
    Kenneth: It’s the only place I can go to get away from those damned game shows. · Oct 21 at 7:57am

    You’re just upset because you’re being barred from being on one now. We bitter clingers have to stick together.

    • #6
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:11 am
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  7. Inactive

    I’m going to anticipate Jay dee 007, who must be snoozing. He seethes with anger every time he recalls Congress’ failure to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts in 1995.

    He – and a lot of other conservatives – recognized that as proof-positive that the Gingrich insurgency was impotent.

    If the incoming House majority fails to act on the NEA and NPR, well, then, we’ll know what we know….

    • #7
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:17 am
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  8. Inactive

    This country needs publicly funded NPR/PBS as much as it needs ACORN or whatever these community organizers call themselves these days. And if the “de-funding” of ACORN is any precedent, public broadcasting will be with us a long, long time, causing continuous mischief.

    • #8
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:23 am
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  9. Inactive
    Pat Sajak: ….What with The History Channel, The Smithsonian Channel, Logo, The Food Network, et al, what voids do these publicly-funded networks fill?

    I don’t think they need government funding–they can get by with corporate funding and membership drives–but I do think there needs to be a free source for science, music, art, and history programing–programing that can’t support itself with advertising. There are lots of people, especially elderly people, who can’t afford cable or satellite television. They shouldn’t have to give up NOVA, or Broadway music concerts, or Ken Burns documentaries, or Masterpiece Mystery, just because they can’t afford it. The good on PBS still outweighs the bad.

    • #9
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:26 am
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  10. Inactive
    etoiledunord
    Pat Sajak: ….What with The History Channel, The Smithsonian Channel, Logo, The Food Network, et al, what voids do these publicly-funded networks fill?

    I don’t think they need government funding–they can get by with corporate funding and membership drives–but I do think there needs to be a free source for science, music, art, and history programing–programing that can’t support itself with advertising. There are lots of people, especially elderly people, who can’t afford cable or satellite television. They shouldn’t have to give up NOVA, or Broadway music concerts, or Ken Burns documentaries, or Masterpiece Mystery, just because they can’t afford it. The good on PBS still outweighs the bad. · Oct 21 at 8:26am

    Looking through my tattered copy of the Constitution….

    Ken Burns documentaries…..Broadway concerts….

    Article II? Bill of Rights?

    Nope, nope….not finding it….

    • #10
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:31 am
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  11. Thatcher
    Kenneth: …. If the incoming House majority fails to act on the NEA and NPR, well, then, we’ll know what we know…. · Oct 21 at 8:17am

    That’s a bingo. Not any real $$ but these are the canaries in the coal mine – a quick way to find out if the Republican House is full of gas.

    • #11
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:37 am
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  12. Podcaster

    Breaking the first rule of good lawyering, never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to, PBS used the marketing slogan, “If PBS Doesn’t Do It, Who Will?” in the late 90’s. The answer was, “A lot of people.”

    And it’s an age old argument.

    • #12
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:40 am
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  13. Member
    etoiledunord I don’t think they need government funding–they can get by with corporate funding and membership drives– Oct 21 at 8:26am

    Helloooo? Not to mention advertising? Have you see KQED’s demographics? The idea that this type of programming will die without subsidy is ridiculous.

    etoiledunord There are lots of people, especially elderly people, who can’t afford cable or satellite television. They shouldn’t have to give up NOVA, or Broadway music concerts, or Ken Burns documentaries, or Masterpiece Mystery, just because they can’t afford it. The good on PBS still outweighs the bad. · Oct 21 at 8:26am

    I’m pretty sure that these programs would be commercially viable in a private model. But beyond that this is an incredibly slippery slope. So now its government’s job to ensure that poor seniors get to watch Ken Burns along with the folks that buy DVDs? Why not free baseball games? Broadway plays? Trips to Club Med — lots of folks can’t afford those…

    • #13
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:48 am
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  14. Inactive

    Where is the advertising-only-supported programing that’s just like PBS? I don’t see it. Have any of you ever been really really poor? You don’t stop liking NOVA or Masterpiece Theatre just because having electricity is more important than having cable.

    • #14
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:56 am
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  15. Member

    I think eliminating NPR and PBS would be a strong political move. Along with demonstrating a seriousness about spending, this would perfectly illustrate limousine liberals’ entitlement. Why should hardworking Americans work to pay for your uninterrupted programming of starving postmodern LGBT musicians in “besieged” Palestinian towns? Sink or swim like the rest of American media.

    • #15
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:02 am
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  16. Inactive
    etoiledunord: Where is the advertising-only-supported programing that’s just like PBS? I don’t see it. Have any of you ever been really really poor? You don’t stop liking NOVA or Masterpiece Theatre just because having electricity is more important than having cable. · Oct 21 at 8:56am

    Yes, I have been really, really poor. And I discovered this thing called a public library. Established by Andrew Carnegie. Funded by local taxpayers.

    • #16
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:03 am
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  17. Podcaster
    etoiledunord The good on PBS still outweighs the bad. · Oct 21 at 8:26am

    PBS is not very good at succeeding in their mission. They are poorly run and more often often compete with each other. Los Angeles has four PBS affilliates. The New York market, three. Cleveland has two.

    They don’t do a great deal of of local programming and they rarely contribute anything but money to the national network (depending on the market size PBS demands anywhere from 22-40% of the station’s fund raising). There are just a handful of PBS stations that provide most of the schedule.

    • #17
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:04 am
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  18. Member
    etoiledunord: Where is the advertising-only-supported programing that’s just like PBS? I don’t see it. Have any of you ever been really really poor? You don’t stop liking NOVA or Masterpiece Theatre just because having electricity is more important than having cable. · Oct 21 at 8:56am

    It doesn’t exist because there is a government supported competitor crowding the marketplace. Maybe its different where you live and the PBS station limps along. But where I live, KQED is the largest, most demographically attractive radio station on the air. Today corporate “sponsors” supplement government subsidies; it’s all very genteel. If you took that away, the smart/funny programs would remain and the PC claptrap would fall away, but the station would remain vibrant and healthy.

    But at the end of the day it’s all just entertainment. I don’t want the government deciding which entertainment is better than other types of entertainment. And I sure don’t want the government funding entertainment that is consumed primarily by rich people. (Your poor NOVA-loving pensioners notwithstanding.)

    • #18
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:13 am
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  19. Inactive

    I read somewhere that NPR gets only about two percent of its funding from government. Just the other day George Soros gave it $1.8 million to slant the news for years to come by hiring a hundred new journalists. The widow of Ray Krock gave NPR about $1 billion a few years back. I think we can expect left wing plutocrats — Soros is far from the only one — to maintain NPR in style. Where I live sadly it is the only source of radio news when you’re driving, the only time I listen. The commercial stations give you a five-minute news feed (half of it is ads delivered by shouting car salesmen) each hour from one of the networks. Don’t bother complaining about Juan to NPR by the way. They have disconnected that link or it has been overwhelmed. The media live in the same bubble as the White House. Sound goes out but doesn’t come in.

    • #19
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:15 am
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  20. Moderator
    Kenneth
    etoiledunord: Where is the advertising-only-supported programing that’s just like PBS? I don’t see it. Have any of you ever been really really poor? You don’t stop liking NOVA or Masterpiece Theatre just because having electricity is more important than having cable. · Oct 21 at 8:56am
    Yes, I have been really, really poor. And I discovered this thing called a public library. Established by Andrew Carnegie. Funded by local taxpayers.

    Yes, I was about to mention public libraries. My parents don’t have cable. I didn’t have cable until after I married. We went to the library.

    Also, for those poor people who do scrape enough together to pay for an internet connection (and many do), there’s the world-wide web. YouTube and so on, where a gazillion fans post low-res playlists of this kind of programming.

    Furthermore, even if public broadcasting is defunded nationally, it doesn’t follow that all non-commercial channels will die out. There is one PBS channel in our area good enough that it stands a decent chance of continuing as a municipal or private charity if federal funding dies.

    • #20
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:22 am
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  21. Inactive

    NPR and PBS exist because we are a country of big government. Funding entities such as these is what big governments do. NPR and PBS are just symptoms of the disease. What they broadcast, who benefits, etc is in the end are meaningless.

    • #21
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:23 am
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  22. Moderator
    etoiledunord: Have any of you ever been really really poor?

    I suspect a lot of us here have been at one time or another. We may not be that interested talking much about it, though — it’s not exactly a pleasant, genial topic. It doesn’t make for the usual lighthearted Ricochet banter.

    • #22
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:28 am
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  23. Inactive

    I was with Robert Siegel one day and I took him aside to ask how much money Joanie Kroc has given them. It was $200 million. This is a public institution and you can bet the mission creep exploded at that point.

    I think we can expect a BBC-style expiation soon with a frank statement about progressivism. You can’t fire a high profile person in public without one.

    Wonder how long they’ve been gunning for Juan since he first showed up on Fox ? Guest hosting O’Reilly must have driven them batty.

    On the other hand, I’d gladly give them $200 million to take Amanpour off the screen and have her hangout with Sylvia Poggioli !

    You can get all the Ken Burns you want on Netflix streaming.

    • #23
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:31 am
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  24. Inactive

    etoiledunord: Have any of you ever been really really poor? You don’t stop liking NOVA or Masterpiece Theatre just because having electricity is more important than having cable

    Leave aside the fact that PBS viewers tend to be college educated, middle and upper middle class, I don’t think one has to engage in the Monty Python competition of “my family was so poor I had to hang around with lepers…” to understand the problem and to object to public financing of PBS. And if it is government’s responsibility that people have access to programmes of which one happens to approve, why not insist that the “poor” get free tickets to opera too. After all, what’s more edifying than opera?

    • #24
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:33 am
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  25. Inactive
    etoiledunord
    Pat Sajak: ….What with The History Channel, The Smithsonian Channel, Logo, The Food Network, et al, what voids do these publicly-funded networks fill?
    I don’t think they need government funding–they can get by with corporate funding and membership drives–but I do think there needs to be a free source for science, music, art, and history programing–programing that can’t support itself with advertising….. · Oct 21 at 8:26am

    I agree with that etoiledunord guy.

    • #25
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:44 am
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  26. Inactive
    Ragnarok
    etoiledunord: Have any of you ever been really really poor? You don’t stop liking NOVA or Masterpiece Theatre just because having electricity is more important than having cable

    Leave aside the fact that PBS viewers tend to be college educated, middle and upper middle class, I don’t think one has to engage in the Monty Python competition of “my family was so poor I had to hang around with lepers…” to understand the problem and to object to public financing of PBS. And if it is government’s responsibility that people have access to programmes of which one happens to approve, why not insist that the “poor” get free tickets to opera too. After all, what’s more edifying than opera? · Oct 21 at 9:33am

    My family was so poor that lepers would deposit used clothing and canned goods on our doorstep.

    Well, not a doorstep, actually. The entrance to our cave.

    • #26
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:51 am
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  27. Inactive
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    etoiledunord: Have any of you ever been really really poor?

    I suspect a lot of us here have been at one time or another. We may not be that interested talking much about it, though — it’s not exactly a pleasant, genial topic.

    My late father born in 1928 was poor. My family’s farmhouse lacked running water and a flush toilet. The house was only recently electrified, but affordable air conditioning and refrigeration hadn’t been invented yet. Horse drawn vehicles were more common in rural Pennsylvania than automobiles. That’s poor.

    Today’s “poor” have appurtenances that my father in his youth would have considered something out of Buck Rogers. The only poverty I see amongst the “poor” is moral and spiritual poverty. Except for the homeless who are generally insane, addicted, or both, material poverty in this country is rare to non-existent. We might mismanage the nation’s finances into bankruptcy, but our 21st century infrastructure isn’t going to disappear overnight.

    As for public broadcasting, we won’t be any poorer without it.

    • #27
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:54 am
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  28. Inactive
    liberal jim: NPR and PBS exist because we are a country of big government. Funding entities such as these is what big governments do. NPR and PBS are just symptoms of the disease. What they broadcast, who benefits, etc is in the end are meaningless. · Oct 21 at 9:23am

    Liberal Jim, you seem to be succumbing to our influence.

    I suggest you change your name to, um….Jim.

    • #28
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:54 am
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  29. Contributor

    All I know is that I haven’t had so much fun watching a media meltdown as I have had this morning. I wish for popcorn and to sit back and listen to NPR defend itself for this firing. I think we all know he was fired for contributing to Fox. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    • #29
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:56 am
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  30. Member
    flownover: On the other hand, I’d gladly give them $200 million to take Amanpour off the screen and have her hangout with Sylvia Poggioli !· Oct 21 at 9:31am

    Classic.

    • #30
    • October 21, 2010 at 9:58 am
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