>The various responsibilities which fall to this poor scribbler occasionally take him away from these virtual pages, gentle reader, and so it is that I return to you today, head bowed and cap mangled uneasily between my fingers, begging your pardon for my absence these last few days. I do hope that said absence was not too troubling to you in your quest to find something to fall asleep while reading. Your patronage is of great import to me, as well as your feedback.
And now let me explain why we should defund PBS.
I watch a great deal of PBS, as it happens. In fact, I watch more PBS than just about anyone else I know in their 20’s-30’s. I watch the science shows, dramas, cooking shows, comedies, mysteries, documentaries, and so on (though not their news coverage for reasons which, if you are a regular peruser of this site, should be obvious.) Indeed, I have watched PBS extensively for as long as I can remember, from Sesame Street and the original Electric Company onwards.
And because I have been watching PBS for three decades now, I can detect how it has changed, in a number of very important ways. I could, for example, describe the significant decline in the level of home-grown drama programming, with virtually everything now being imported from Britain and presumably your tax dollars being used to help pay for budgets at the BBC, ITV, and elsewhere. Or we could discuss the disappearance of challenging, intelligent programming such as “American Playhouse”, and the significant reduction in broadcasts from Lincoln Center – not to mention the absolute dearth of representation of nearly any other venue for classical music other than during the holidays – in favor of MTV-Unplugged evenings spent with marginally talented cultural irrelevancies such as John Legend, the Shia Labeouf of the music world, or pledge drive weepies with stars from the 40’s and 50’s who should have retired with their remaining grace intact rather than wheeling their zimmerframes out on stage, or ageing hippies who never had any grace to begin with doing much the same thing.
No, no, the truth of the matter is, Public Television has moved away from what it once was, a venue for education, even of the Leftist variety, and instead is no longer public: it is commercial. And because it is now commercial, albeit without as many obvious commercials as, say, NBC or the Discovery Channel, it is time to remove its funding. It must stop lying to the American taxpayer and claiming it is a non-profit educational venture, and we must call it to account for not only its deliberate untruth, but also its incredibly poor financial management of our money.
Back in the day, if you turned on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of that season’s production of “Carmen”, or watched “I, Claudius” or the like on Masterpiece Theatre, you knew that these programs were sponsored “in part” by large corporations such as the oil companies, investment banks, or the insurance industry. Perhaps their corporate logo would appear with a message of thanks to the corporation for their philanthropic gift, and that was all. Those subtle days are, for the most part, now gone.
Those who have not sat down and watched PBS for awhile may be surprised to see the number of actual commercials that are shown both at the beginning AND at the end of a program. The much-loved “Antiques Roadshow”, for example, has advertisements for Subaru motorcars and Liberty Mutual insurance, among others, at the beginning and end of each show: not just a corporate sponsor thank-you message, but actual commercials. We also see commercials for American Airlines at the beginning and end of the ever-snide Rick Steves’ travel programs; Union Bank runs commercials at the beginning and end of the BBC World News broadcasts. And the commercials on some of the cooking programs, from Cuisinart to Oxo to Robert Mondavi wines, boggle the mind – even on programs featuring the late Julia Child. These are but a few examples.
And what of the programming tie-ins themselves?
Where does all of the money from the children’s shows – which are supposedly so much more wholesome than the other things our children could be watching on “commercial” television – going if not to PBS? Are they really that bad at managing the American taxpayer’s money that they cannot negotiate decent royalties from the manufacturers for products featuring their zoo of characters licensing deals which should, in and of themselves, be able to perpetually fund PBS? And if they are not capable of negotiating such agreements, if the executives at PBS really are that inept – for there is no other term to sum up such a level of corporate irresponsibility – then why on earth should we continue to give them our money? If PBS was an average corporation that had failed to protect its shareholders’ rights so spectacularly poorly, the leadership would all have been sacked by now.
All of the local PBS stations hereabouts have been running announcements, asking viewers to contact their representatives in Congress and “tell them how you feel” about PBS. I am more than happy to oblige, and am passing along this blog post to my representative. For in the smokescreen from the Tea Partiers about PBS having a Leftist news department – which it does – and from the Left about some Tea Partiers being narrow-minded and uneducated – which they are – there is a fundamental truth: PBS as it is currently run is a bad investment.
If it is a non-profit, then it should not be allowing outside corporations to profit from its products. If it is for-profit, then it should be held to the same standards of stakeholder responsibility as is any other corporation, and drop the myth that it is somehow an independent institution. Either way, without a significant shake-up to its management, it ought to go.