The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Public TV's conservative bias?
Two congressional Democrats called Wednesday for an investigation into recent activities by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, suggesting that efforts by the Republican chairman of the private nonprofit to add more conservative programs onto PBS may violate federal law.
In a letter released Wednesday evening, Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., asked CPB Inspector General Kenneth A. Konz to investigate the contracting, hiring and policies of the corporation, which distributes federal funds to public television stations. Both congressmen are ranking Democrats on committees that have oversight of public television.
They called recent actions taken by CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson ``disturbing'' and ``extremely troubling.''
A CPB spokesman could not be reached for comment. But in a recent interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Tomlinson defended his efforts to expand conservative perspectives on PBS, saying he merely wants to increase the network's audience.
From all the storm being raised about this issue, you would think PBS was giving the floor to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
It is a single show from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. In my area, my enlightened - always open to debate - public TV stations have the show on at the oh-so-convenient time of 6:00 AM, Saturday morning (the show formerly run by Bill Moyers, Frontline, The McNeil-Lehrer Report and the others are prime time productions).
Luckily, I have TiVo (which kicks ass, by the way) so I have seen it. The program is a very low key, low budget production, where four WSJ editors discuss the main issues of the day. Yes, they tend to lean conservative - in the same way that the urban perspectives show that follows it in the schedule leans liberal.
But if this show is "disturbing" and "deeply troubling" to liberals, than liberalism is truly dead.
Working philosophies welcome debate. People who have things figured out are eager to communicate to unbelievers. They do not throw pies or shout people down. Only people who feel their views cannot stand up to scrutiny try silly gimmicks like that.
For the record, PBS is still a useless anachronism - a costly liberal network broadcasting commercial-free programming to wealthy elites. Their typical audience member is more likely to drive a Lexus than take the bus - and these wealthy people want to watch their tasteful programming without commercial interruption. Regular rubes can sit throught the ads for toilet paper; these people have influence to insure that they don't have to.
There is no reason why our government needs to help run TV stations (or radio stations, for that matter). The meteor is hurtling toward this dinosaur, but in Washington, things change slowly. Usually, change is only made possible by economic realities. And those economic realities will not be running in PBS's favor.
The most telling moment that I have witnessed in this whole debate was a discussion between Morton Kondracke, Charles Krauthammer and NPR's Maura Laisson on Brit Hume's news show. Kondracke and Krauthammer assailed PBS from every perspective, and Maura Laisson - a generally good and fair-minded reporter who works for National Public Radio - did nothing but correct them on minor points. Even she could not rise to offer any kind of spirited defense for her employer, the "Corporation" for Public Broadcasting.
That doesn't bode well for the future of PBS.