Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pull the Plug on PBS Funding

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pull the Plug on PBS Funding

Article excerpt

The Public Broadcasting System is battling to remain on taxpayer life support. It has flooded its own airwaves with self-promoting montages of its best programming that conclude with the rhetorical question, "If PBS doesn't do it, who will?"

None of the spots shows excerpts from any of PBS' most controversial programs, including some that have promoted left-wing and one-sided views on domestic and foreign policy issues. PBS wants us to think that pulling the tax-revenue plug will cause the immediate death of Barney and Big Bird - and that's the tragic image they are trying to sell.

When PBS' parent, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was established in 1967, television was a "vast wasteland" with little programming that could be said to benefit culture or intellect. One could argue that it has gotten worse in the ensuing 28 years.

But the point about PBS and its federal funding is not its content (one-sidedly liberal and offensive as it sometimes is). The point is whether one television network should receive federal subsidies, especially with the proliferation of commercial cable networks that offer cultural and children's programming as good as, or better than, PBS'.

Cable channels now outspend PBS on programming that PBS says is essential to its mission. The Disney Channel spends $120 million a year on children's programming, compared with $36 million at PBS. CNN spends $164 million on news and public affairs. PBS spends $63 million.

Other private cable channels - such as the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, Nickelodeon, Bravo, American Movie Classics and Arts & Entertainment - offer children's programming, documentaries, classical music, even opera. There would be no cultural wasteland if PBS went off the air tomorrow.

PBS programs make a bundle of money for those selling licensed merchandise, only a small percentage of which flows back to PBS. Shouldn't the people cleaning up on the sale of Big Bird and Barney toys, T-shirts and sheets be required to share more of that money with PBS before the taxpayer has to pony up?

A new PBS policy requires that the network receive a "share" of profits made from selling merchandise related to a program, though this does not apply to the Children's Television Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street," because the Workshop predates PBS. …

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