The Pundit: Top Ten Reasons Why We Should End Government Support for PBS Pt. 1

(January 2016)

This graphic is from the website for the Ken Burn's series "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" that aired in 2015. The sponsors of the PBS series include the Kochs, other corporate interests and foundations created by the corporate elite.

Watching the Ken Burn's series "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies Trailer" I was amazed at how quickly the producers dismissed the role of toxins in the environment and workplace and did not include those factors in a graphic showing cancer causes. That is a major omission considering that according to Physicians for Social Responsibility"... Environmental factors including tobacco smoke, nutrition, physical activity, and exposure to environmental carcinogens are estimated to be responsible for 75-80% of cancer diagnosis and death in the US. See Part 2 for more on the PBS Cancer Whitewash.

When corporate polluters can influence the content of a public/government funded PBS television programs with an investment in sponsorships, then the network has lost its credibility and usefulness as a source of reliable information. I know this is considered heresy in many leftish circles, but it is time to end government funding for the so-called "public" broadcasting stations operated by PBS and NPR. Non-governmental non-profits can fund the stations or they can be allowed to die.

Here are a few reasons why:

1.There is no reason to assume that the content of government funded channels will remain free from the influence of the dominant political interests. In the USA the political influence from elected officials on the content of government subsidized government channels has been limited, but nothing guarantees that will always be the case. Do you want your taxes used to subsidize a right wing government propaganda channel? Why do so many progressives assume they can retain control of these channels when they are a minority force in the federal government?

2. It is a not true that PBS is currently liberal or progressive. Establishment and business interests already dominate PBS programming. Their influence is currently subtle enough that many still believe the myth propagated by the right that PBS is predominately leftist. Check the facts from reliable researchers or do a count yourself: what proportion of those expressing opinions on PBS are: minorities, pro-labor, under 30, left wing activists etc. compared to the number of mainstream moderate to conservative democrat/republicans in power, big business interests, military officers, retired military, former federal government officials or retired politicians?

3. Educational programming is available in many other outlets including channels from Discovery, National Geographic, the BBC, and others.

4. Much of the PBS programming is lightweight and dispensable. Oldies concerts, cooking shows, This Old House, Antiques Road show, and a constant influx of British shows about royalty, aristocrats and their servants -- Do you really think the need for this type of fluffy programming can't be met by commercial broadcasters or cablecasters?

5. Government sponsored programming is not necessary now that most people can access hundreds of TV channels and millions of websites . The need for a non-commercial alternative to mainstream broadcasters was significant before the growth of cable TV, small-dish satellite TV and the internet. In addition, the cost of the equipment required to create and broadcast programming is a fraction of the cost compared to just twenty years ago.

6. Much PBS programming reflects a flawed, classist philosophy: the notion that the lower classes can be uplifted by exposure to highbrow art and culture, which is supposedly morally superior to folk, alternative and pop culture. The result is that the whole country pays for the favored entertainment (ballet, symphony etc.) of a small number of the cultural "elites." I suspect that many PBS supporters want such programming for other people (because itís 'good for them"), but don't actually watch it themselves. Programming that is actually of interest to the masses is usually only shown during fundraising drives.

7. Those members of the public that want access to PBS/NPR style programming should pay for it, the rest of us shouldn't be forced to do so. To serve the needs of very low income people without access to cable TV, small-dish satellite TV and the internet the government should require that service providers provide free or subsidized rates to the poor. Alternatively the government could provide tax write-offs or another form of subsidy to low income people needing access to cable TV, small-dish satellite TV and/or the internet.

8. College and community stations provide a much more important and relevant alternative to commercial broadcasting than NPR and PBS stations, with little or no support from the federal government. There is a great need for real, grassroots non-commercial community TV and radio, but I don't think this need will ever be met through subsidies from the federal government. The Pacifica radio stations provide great programming without any government subsidies. Instead of trying to get the federal government to be good programmers, we should be working on eliminating the regulatory barriers to real community broadcasting.

9. The integrity of PBS programming is seriously compromised by the influence of the corporate donors and the programming policies are designed to marginalize and reduce the quantity and visibility of programming from genuine independent/grass roots producers. Read the editorial guidelines for PBS producers.

10. Those of us who care about corporate control over mass media need to concentrate on removing the barriers to real grass roots broadcast and cable channels and end the current regulatory scheme that guarantees commercial broadcasters a money-generating near-monopoly. If established commercial broadcasters didn't benefit from rigged rules that guarantee their dominance we wouldn't need a government-funded "alternative."

See Part 2 for more on the PBS Cancer Whitewash.

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