Home > Entertainment, Financial/economy/Wall Street > Public Broadcasting: A ‘luxury’ we can’t do without

Public Broadcasting: A ‘luxury’ we can’t do without

February 28th, 2011

Often PBS Television comes into the sights of some Republicans for defunding.  This year is no exception.  Already the speeches are being made with various people holding Kermit and Big Bird puppets.  TV commercials are beginning to pop up on shows on PBS.  What disturbs me is why PBS.  I can’t see what’s not to like.

Most people don’t give a rat’s ass about the politics of PBS, if there are any.  Most people just like NOVA, Antiques Road Show, Masterpiece, and American Experience.  There are numerous kids shows, some entertainment and some educational.  At least 2 or 3 generations grew up on shows like  Sesame Street and the Electric Company.  These shows were on the airwaves.  No cable was needed.  Poor kids got some solid education, even if their parents didn’t have cable or if there were no satellite TV. 

American Experience is one of the best documentaries on television.  The presidents series highlights a president’s life and accomplishments, without over-exposure to politics or without straying away from some of the real disturbances during that term of office.  We need to be able to see all sides of history without being beaten over the head with the politics if we are truly to be an educated society.

Some truly great shows have been shown on Public Broadcasting Service.  Ken Burns’ Baseball, The War, and The Civil War, The West, just to name a few, have been featured on PBS.  These documentaries have given us an inside peek at history without censoring us because of controversy. 

Read what Ken Burns has to say about the proposed defunding of PBS, from the Washington Post  on February 27, 2011:

Public broadcasting, a ‘luxury’ we can’t do without

By Ken Burns

Sunday, February 27, 2011

 Like millions of my countrymen, I am profoundly concerned that the debate over government spending, while necessary, has come to threaten the cultural, educational, informational and civilizing influences that help equip us for enlightened citizenship. Suddenly, these are dismissed as “unaffordable luxuries” when in fact we have never needed them more.

In the midst of the Great Depression, our government managed to fund some of the most enduring and memorable documentaries, photographs, art and dramatic plays this country has ever produced. Our need for such cultured and civilizing influences is no less urgent now.

Difficult decisions will have to be made – but not on the back of an infinitesimally small fraction of the deficit that the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and public broadcasting represent. These institutions are in their fifth decade of unmatched service. With minimal funding, PBS manages to produce essential (commercial-free) children’s programming as well as the best science and nature, arts and performance, and public affairs and history programming on the dial – often a stark contrast to superficial, repetitive and mind-numbing programming elsewhere. PBS supplements the schedules of hundreds of other channels. It produces “classrooms of the air” that help stitch together statewide educational activities and helps create cradle-to-grave continuing education services that are particularly appreciated in rural states. Alaska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia are among the states that depend on PBS shows daily, belying the canard that this is just programming for the rich and bi-coastal.

Polls consistently show that huge majorities of all Americans support public broadcasting. And false arguments of bias in public broadcasting often cut both ways; members of the Clinton administration bitterly complained to me about criticism they perceived as coming from NPR. PBS is the place that gave William F. Buckley a home for almost 30 years. In an age when nearly everyone selects their media on the basis of their political views, it’s refreshing to have an in-depth option that periodically upsets the powers-that-be in both parties. Our founders would be delighted.

Many say that what can’t survive in the marketplace doesn’t deserve to survive. Not one of my documentaries, produced solely for PBS over the past 30 years, could have been made anywhere but on public broadcasting. Each time a film of mine happens to reach a large audience, I am “invited” to join the marketplace. Each time I patiently explain to my new suitor what I have planned for my next project – an 11-and-a-half-hour history of the Civil War, perhaps, or a 17-hour investigation of the history of jazz, or a 12-hour history of the national parks – I am laughed out of their offices, sent, happily, back to PBS.

The marketplace can be wonderful. Its relentless forces do weed out many unnecessary things, but there are some things the marketplace cannot do. It won’t come to your house at 3 in the morning if it’s on fire, it doesn’t plow the streets in a blizzard and it doesn’t have boots on the ground in Afghanistan. I don’t mean to suggest that PBS or the endowments have a direct role in the defense of our country; no, they help make the country worth defending.

In the late 1980s, I had the honor of meeting President Ronald Reagan at a White House reception. I told him I was a PBS producer working on a history of the Civil War. His eyes twinkled as he recalled watching, as a young boy, parades of aging Union veterans marching down the main street of Dixon, Ill., on the Fourth of July. Then, in almost an admonishment, he spoke to me about the responsibility he saw for a private sector-governmental partnership when it came to public broadcasting and the arts and humanities. (His administration was very supportive of these long-standing institutions.) I told him that nearly a third of my budget for the Civil War series came from a large American corporation, a third from private foundations, and a third from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an agency then led by Lynne Cheney. He smiled and then held me by the shoulders, and his eyes twinkled again. “Good work, he said. “I look forward to seeing your film.”

Today, our funding model remains essentially the same. But proposals to defund CPB and the endowments will put some of the best stuff on the tube and radio out of business. Somewhere, I imagine, the twinkle would be extinguished from Ronald Reagan’s eyes.

The writer is a filmmaker.

 The proposal to defund government support of PBS is nothing new. It has been going on for years. Recent government spending cuts is just an excuse. Let’s talk about issues, not money. What is it that is good about PBS and what do people not like? Is the mark of a civilized society not somewhat about the arts? When we have Olympics and football teams, is there no room for shows on TV that aren’t pock marked with advertising? Can we have shows like Masterpiece Theater and American Experience? How about some of the great music shows like the Doo Whop Concerts, Celtic Woman, various folk artists for some variety? I rather like the non-exposure to Lady Gaga. The Ken Burns documentaries have been extraordinary. Not everyone can afford HBO. Does that mean we are cut off from anything that might be considered ‘the arts?’ In a time when football, hockey, Charlie Sheen and numerous comedies permeate the airwaves, how nice to be able to kick back for an evening of Downton Abby.

Note:  The new Virginia budget cut funding for  public television by 10%.  That seems fair.




  1. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 12:50 | #1

    Why is the government in the business of television?

    If Downton Abby is any good her advertisers can support her (or him) and not the public dole.

  2. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 12:57 | #2

    Because business is now in the business of Gov’t???

    It’s not a she. Downton Abbey with an ‘e’. Network American advertisers only support brainless dribble that’s usually meaningless and crass. The History Channel could support Amercian Experience and maybe a new channel like Diaglogue TV (where there is real dialogue) would be born out of pure necessity to replace PBS.

  3. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 13:04 | #3

    I don’t disagree that a lot of network tv is brainless…….jersey shore

    But, it’s still a business making an investment on a product they wish to peddle and then find a market for it. The market supports it or not and advertisers come in to get a piece of it. You as a consumer of television chose what you watch – the advertisers don’t push you into it.

    Business like any individual can influence government.

  4. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 13:33 | #4

    Hey, I think we actually agree. Except to the definition of “influence” government. I won’t bring you know who up, but government should not be bought. I know it’s gone on for years to some degree, but when it’s pretty flagrant I cant stomach it.

  5. February 28th, 2011 at 14:00 | #5

    Marin, There are lots of people out there in tv and who can’t afford cable and they cannot afford a dish. Public Broadcasting comes across the airwaves. It provides decent, somewhat high end programming, commercial free. Many people who value this type of programming personally donate.

    Didn’t you watch Sesame Street or the Electric Company when you were a little sprout? That is a kids own head start program.

    It doesn’t get any better than American Experience or one of the Ken Burns specials.

    I always enjoy the British television period drama series. You don’t even get those on HBO.

    Don’t tell me you don’t want the little Marins to watch Sesame Street?

    Winos are also tax payers. I would rather have my tax dollars go towards Public TV than the Iraq War. I don’t recall anyone asking though.

  6. February 28th, 2011 at 14:02 | #6

    If the government is a collection of the American people, then it is in their best interest to have PBS shows educating Americans rather than Bart Simpson, soap operas and 2 and a half men.

  7. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 14:07 | #7

    What is the annual PBS budget? Do we know? I’d also be interested in how much money they raise. Most of the programs I watch are funded by some pretty heavy hitters.

    I guess if I was in charge of strategically cutting the budget, I’m not so sure I’d begin with domestic spending anyway but then again I’m not sure why my taxes drive other people’s kids to school and ACTIVITY busess and why do schools have to provide a cafeteria and all the acoutrements? I see more benefit from PBS. But that’s me.

    And, MH- somehow the poorest of the poor seem to have better TV’s and movie collections than I. Is that snobby?

    • February 28th, 2011 at 14:13 | #8

      I think it depends on the poor and why they are poor, Juturna. The new poor are often the retired. One of my mother’s friends had to give up her cable because times were tight. She didn’t have a nice TV.

      I think that is why PBS was invented….to serve those without access to cable. But you are right. Some people will have a 52 inch TV and their kids will live on moon pies and pessie cola. Thats the meal for the day.

  8. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 14:09 | #9

    And besides….. the way things are headed who has a need for the arts anyway. Guess the Smithsonian is next?

    • February 28th, 2011 at 14:24 | #10

      The Smithsonian, the Botanical Gardens, National Zoo, Library of Congress and lets chop down the cherry trees while we are at it, and close the monuments.

  9. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 14:28 | #11

    So we’ll be communists? I think they have a ruling business class and no arts :)

  10. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 14:59 | #12


    You don’t need cable (pay) TV to get local channels. You can still pick ’em up over the air. You can also pick them up in digital format for the new TV’s. So, I don’t buy into the poor people need access arguement – they already have free access.

    As to the judgement and quality of tv.. That’s entirely a free market. I might watch a show like ‘Bones’ but my neighbor doesn’t. But, if enough people DO watch Bones it’ll stay on the air and if successful even demand a premium from avertisers. The people indirectly “vote” for what’s best and the market provides it to them.

    Let’s change the ‘venue’ from tv to eating establishments. McDonalds is popular because people like it and get a value from it. But, “Vegan’s R Us” (reverse the R for a better visual, hehe) might be *better* for you in terms of quality of food and general nuitritional value. Because of that should the government step in and say.. hey less junk food and more good food! Let’s give Vegan’s R Us some money so they can compete with McDonalds.. You’ll just end up tossing money in a money pit because people are smart enough (or dumb enough..whatever) to say “I **choose** McDonald’s!”

    I have nothing against PBS or NPR or whatever hippy artsy channels exist to bore people to sleep. But, let ’em do it based off charity, donations, subscriptions or any other revenue source outside of PUBLIC monies. Else, it’s theft from the working man.

    • February 28th, 2011 at 16:03 | #13

      And with those regular channels you get crap. Pure and simple crap with plenty of advertising.

      And actually, no, it really isn’t all free market. I am so tired of hearing about the fing free market I don’t know what to do.

      Not everything is free market. think of the buffalo and the primal trees. Destroyed by capitalists. The railroads owners. I think those who chopped down the primal trees for ship masts etc were just people who had enough money to hire a crew and to buy enough horses to drag the trees out.

      Real capitalists, people who aren’t living on hope and a song, also make sure that they contribute heavily to the arts. They aren’t cave men who think about money all the time time. Those contributors don’t want to live in an unciviled country, devoid of Beethoven, Mozart, buffalo, and other things that amatuer politics brings in.

  11. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 15:03 | #14

    What are your thoughts on the Smithsonian?

  12. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 15:17 | #15


    I like how you think. I would not terminate funding for the Smithsonian.

  13. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 15:30 | #16

    I see some difference as one captures our history and culture – although I think PBS brings parts of the Smithsonian to those that don’t have our access. Just another way to view PBS. Living here where we do we sometimes lose perspective of what we have around us. There are many programs used in classrooms (I know from my sister in Wisconsin) that are provided by PBS for those purposes.

  14. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 15:40 | #17


    And I see where your coming from and going on this but I think there is a difference between having a public library and the govt having a program where they send every citizen a book (of the govt’s choice) every month.

    Again, I have no objection to PBS but I do object to paying for it.

    FWIW, my dad I learned english by watching Sesame Street together.

  15. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 15:52 | #18

    Well, libraries are funded and managed locally. PBS is federal. I see the issue, but think there are host of questionable funding programs that would come before this as this does benefit Americans. I’m less global in my priorities. Iraqi’s have better school facilities than Detriot does.

    I do think that many conservatives see PBS as a wild liberal ‘thing’. I’m not sure where that comes from. Masterpiece Theatre, American Experience. Where else would you learn about American Stamps? I enjoy the The News Hour. Some I agree and some I don’t. But at least I know why I agree or not. The big draw for me is the civility and absence of facial contortions.

    On Friday’s David Brooks and Mark Shields run down the major issues of the week. Very civilized and better managed than network, CNN or Fox. I think more people should watch it!! Only hearing one opinion can’t give you the ownership of one.

    Plus, it’s a relief to watch programming that is not for profit.

  16. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 16:35 | #19


    In Virginia don’t we have a literacy fund? While I agree with you that libraries are funded mostly from local funds I think the state does play in a bit at the pool even if it’s only at the shallow end.

    To your point about priorities I agree that it’s not a top tier priority but I also see it as a low hanging fruit. Idealogically since the govt shouldn’t be in the mass media business it makes sense to terminate the funding. Does the 100% cut here amount to 1% of another program? Maybe..maybe not. But, if were not supposed to be doing it anyways……. But, yah I can see it going either way as long as both paths have a cut. 😉

    MH, I don’t think the analogy between buffalo and television will really work here – especially as the “crap” on networked tv is mostly made by the union. hehe. I doubt we’re hunting actors close to extinction.

    You might think the stuff on tv is crap. Good on you. Demand better quality programming (I would be remiss if I didn’t plug Firefly here..) from the networks. Buy products only from advertisers marketting on your favorite programs. Again, I’ll toss out NASCAR here.. They are hugely successful based on people’s devotion to the brands peddled by the drivers they like. We like Jimmy Johnson and Hendrick Motorspots so I *only* shop at Lowes. I bought my Honda from Hendrick Honda. We’ll buy Cobolt tools..

    PBS can stay. It can stay as long as people are wanting and able to support it through their own time, charity and donations. Outside of that it’s not something that should be subsudized by the public purse.

    BTW, good on those “real capitalists” for contributing so that we don’t have an unciviled country. But, that’s something they decided they wanted to do. I’m all for people donating or contributing their own money for whatever they want. But, doing so from MY money is theft. The only thing that changes that statement is that it’s theft by the government hence legal.

  17. February 28th, 2011 at 16:40 | #20

    @marin, I expect you and I both eat a lot of govt. subsidized foods. That is a whole different thing to bitch about though. Nothing ever beat school cheese. I wish that was a subsidy that never stopped.

    It is in our best interest to have an educated society. The Simpsons or Downton Abbey?

    Sesame Street or Survival? It isn’t a matter of what’s best for you. The National Parks or V?

    Some people will never visit a National Park. Ken Burn’s The National Parks brought them into your living room. How about all those kids who never went to a baseball game or knew there were greats like Clemente, Mantle, Maris, Ruth? News flash: not everyone is middle class.

    And there are some of us who have been to national parks and baseball games who like to remember and not turn the learning spigot off. Maybe that’s what it is about PBS. Maybe it is that sense of lifelong learning that gives us so much pleasure.

    Marin, if it was all taken away, how would you even have an avenue to discover what you like and what you want to know more about?

  18. February 28th, 2011 at 16:54 | #21

    Marin, we don’t have line item vetoes. I think you missed my buffalo analogy. I have written it on here so many times that I short cutted. When the capitalists realized that there were buffalo on the great plains, they were used as target practice to lure buffalo safaris on the trains. Within a year or so, there were no buffalo left. All that was left were great rotting carcasses on the plains and a bunch of starving Indians.

    Sometimes capitalists are destructive and only care about themselves, their pleasures and the almighty dollar. Capitalism isn’t always to be allowed to run unfettered.

  19. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 16:55 | #22

    MH, the govt can tell me that vegatables are good for me but in the end if my fat ass wants junk food.. I’m going to eat junk food.

    Even if – as it is right now – PBS is govt funded and available to everyone – that doesn’t mean people will watch it.

    I understand you see it as an option and it provides culture and that if people just *knew* the value of it then they’d watch it more but in the end.. People WANT to watch Jersey Shore. They WANT to watch the Bachelor. They want to laugh at the Simpsons.

    I’m not saying get rid of PBS. Just stop the public funding of it. The govt shouldn’t be in that business.

    So, excuse me while I watch Castle tonight while eating some Cheetos. Sure I know both aren’t good for me but in the end it’s my choice (for now)

    • February 28th, 2011 at 17:07 | #23

      And we both did yesterday…eat junk food. And it was good. That is an argument for another day.
      And I think the govt can recommend, within reason, about junk food. And it is up to us to heed the advice or not.

      Back to the issue–I don’t even necessarily think everyone should watch PBS. Enough kids sure liked Bert and Ernie and Oscar that their parents didn’t have to hold their noses and make them watch. My favorite was the Count. Kids willingly watched for 3 generations.

      Jersey Shore is cable TV. That doesn’t count. I am talking only about airwaves TV.

      Absolutely PBS stays. Why should you get your way and I not get mine? Do we tally taxes? I have probably a 30 year head start and am married to a man with a 35 year head start. That hardly seems fair. While we are at it, a lot of the financing for PBS comes from private donation so it isn’t just the feds footing the bill. Some money comes from states, some from foundations, some from grants and some from the average citizen who enjoys programming that one doesn’t see on regular TV. Commercial free is very attractive.

      It really isn’t about Castle. Nothing is wrong with Castle. You will get heart burn after a while if you eat cheetos that late while you are watching Castle. The crunchy ones are so much better than the puffy ones.

  20. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 16:58 | #24

    While not directly on subject I think it fits into the choice and control aspect….


    High Speed to Insolvency
    Why liberals love trains.

  21. marinm
    February 28th, 2011 at 17:26 | #25

    It’s not about me getting your way and you not getting yours. I already said I’m ok with PBS staying..just not on the public dole. I would say PBS needs to “get a job” and “pull itself up by its bootstraps”.

    Maybe more private donations will come in. Maybe the shows on public access will need to trim down some to lower overhead. Maybe more megacorporations will pitch in and offer to help out some…. Lots of things could happen. Government intrusion shouldn’t be one of them.

    +1 on cheetos. It’s a weakness of mine and would throw me off my diet if they were allowed back in my house.

    *this posting was brought to you by the numbers 3, 12 and corporate sponsor PEPSI: A taste for the next generation!

    • February 28th, 2011 at 17:45 | #26

      @marin, so let me pose this another way. Why is it that you think your wishes about pbs are more important than mine? Do you support national parks? The Smithsonian? Many people simply don’t have access to these things.

      How about public schools? How about those people who just keep their kids out of school because they don’t want them educated or say they can”t afford to send them. An uneducated population is only a drain.

      Most governments support the arts to some degree, at least the western governments. Again, it is the mark of a country’s greatness. Good govenrments serve their people. If you don’t like PBS, don’t watch it. Remember, there is no line item veto.

      You are aware, are you not, that there is a reason conservatives hate PBS. I am still trying to figure out why.

  22. BoyThreeOne
    February 28th, 2011 at 17:45 | #27

    Government funding for PBS doesn’t mean the government dictates what airs. The point is that PBS is less beholden to any controlling influence than any other television media outlet. It is INDEPENDENT media. Advertisers don’t own it because most of its budget comes from other sources (foundations, private donations). And because of this, it doesn’t have a fraction of the money the networks have. And the funding it does have isn’t enough for it remain viable without government support. For some of us, it’s the ONLY source of information we trust. We DO donate to it. We can’t afford to run it altogether. We pay taxes, as MoonHowler said, and want our tax money to help support it. So it definitely IS about who gets whose way in terms of how tax dollars are allocated. PBS works its ass off for funding. Saying in needs to “get a job” is like telling Einstein to go learn something. You try running a television station without major advertisers.

  23. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 18:17 | #28

    @Marin – you are exactly right, it’s low hanging fruit. PBS employs over 20k employees and receives $400M (approx) in annual federal funding. It’s also one of the best examples of public-private partnershipd around. Several hundred BILLION has been invested in Iraq, Foreign aid to the middle east – Israel and Egypt alone collect over $4B. C’mon.

    • February 28th, 2011 at 18:39 | #29

      Definitely low hanging fruit. We can save the nation stamping out Oscar the Grouch. Keep your hands off the count though!!!!

      If we send foreign aid to Israel and Egypt we don’t even have to see it. How much do we send to various African nations?

      I was surprised to see how many people PBS employees.

      This might seem insignifcant but PBS has a wonderful online shops where you can buy books, video and other merchandise. You can purchase all the Ken Burns and American Experience documentaries for your own library. You can also look at many of the series online. Again, is this the kind of nation we want to be or do we want only the wealthy to have any access to culture and knowledge?

  24. Bubberella
    February 28th, 2011 at 19:40 | #30

    PBS is one of my best sources for international news. It irks me no end the utter crap that the History and Discovery channels serve up as “history” or “science”. I’d really love to have historical biographies on a Biography channel rather than whatever nitwit they have footage of. Bah. Humbug.

  25. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 19:50 | #31

    I think the public private partnership issue is huge. That is a very difficult thing to do. I still don’t see too much difference between the Smithsonian and PBS. Except some bad feelings toward PBS which I really don’t get.

  26. BoyThreeOne
    February 28th, 2011 at 19:52 | #32

    My friend has a program that airs on the PBS station here and in Boston. It’s called “Theater Talk” and is fantastic. She had Stiller and Meara on for 2 shows recently and they spoke about their life together in the funniest, most moving way. All the conversations on the show are unique. My friend produces this show and is responsible for raising most of the funds. PBS airs it but she gets very little money from them. She struggles to keep it afloat. I think a lot of PBS shows work this way. It’s all piecemeal funding. My friend gets funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, which is something else conservatives don’t like.

    I don’t know if things still work this way, but there used to be a clear distinction between fine art and commercial art. Fine artists were people whose primary intent was to express themselves authentically. They kept themselves apart from capitalistic concerns. If they didn’t, they were “selling out,” or putting a higher value on making money than on their artistic message. They were trading their free spirits for wealth and controlling corporate bosses. I don’t imagine that the corporate masters are ever far-removed from any enterprise these days, artistic or otherwise, but some venues have more independent integrity than others. PBS does.

  27. February 28th, 2011 at 20:02 | #33

    A luxury we cannot do without? That is your excuse for taxing people and forcing them to pay for PBS?

    Ken Burns basic argument is that the majority wants it. That is not the way of a republic. That is way of a tyrannical democracy. In a republic, even the minority has rights. That includes the right we each have to pursue our own version of happiness — without greedy politicians trying to steal every cent they can grab.

    Consider that in this era most government spending is low hanging fruit — except there is always somebody who thinks their cash cow is sacred. To keep their sacred cash cows, human parasites discard ethical considerations and form alliances. These alliances make it difficult to control spending. Too many people will do anything to keep THEIR money.

    That makes government budgeting a problem in civil ethics. For the sake of right and wrong — to make majority rule work — we each have to be willing to restrain ourselves from demanding the property of our fellow citizens.

    You like what PBS produces? Then you should be willing to pay for it. If there are enough people willing to pay for it VOLUNTARILY, what you want will be produced. Otherwise, why should the government pay for it? What gives you the right to force other people to spend their money on something they don’t want?

    There are in fact all kinds of “art,” and we spend plenty of money on art. If enough people think some kind of art is important, that “art” is produced. If not, then it is not government’s job to force people to produce “art” almost nobody wants.

    So where do you draw the line? When does government become too much government? Either we are each entitled to our own entertainment/educational preferences, or we are not. Where is the overriding need to use the FORCE of government?

    • February 28th, 2011 at 20:36 | #34

      Citizen Tom, you are a blog owner. I really wish you knew how to talk to people. When you say, “That is your excuse for taxing people and forcing them to pay for PBS?” you immediately have thrown down confrontational conversation. There is no hope of any common ground being found when you approach someone and accuse them of having an excuse. As a blog owner, you actually know better.

      Let’s start with the Golden Rule over here on my blog. Address others as you would like to be addressed.

      I can’t imagine why you feel you are being robbed. Do you feel robbed when your tax dollars go to foreign aid or to wars? You do realize we don’t have a taxpayer line item veto? I don’t know if a majority of people like PBS or not. How does one tell if more than 51% like it or not? Many people like the commercial free programming on the PBS channels. It really is a small investment. I should be just as happy as you are and I think taxes going for public tV is a good thing, right along with National Parks and museums.

  28. February 28th, 2011 at 20:04 | #35


    “And the funding it does have isn’t enough for it remain viable without government support.”

    Right. Home Run. It can’t support itself on the market because the need/want is insufficient for it to exist.


    Mine are not ‘more important’ than yours. I mearly support this legislation and you don’t. I support parks but I’d rather them be state parks instead of federal unless there is an overriding need to have them nationalized over state controlled. I support the Smithsonian (I think in younger years I gave them money, too). People have access to libraries and museums. Whatever is not available via the library is available via the internet connection at the library. I’m a big fan of public libraries.

    Public schools support the interest of having a trained working class so in that context I do support them but the manner in which we run them is of course up for debate. I think as a parent if you WANT to keep your kids out of school — why not? I think it’s a stupid move as it puts the child at a future disadvantage but if it means the class is smaller or people that WANT to be there are being educated…..self solving problem, eh?

    An uneducated populace is a drain to the extent that we throw money at the uneducated.

    “Most governments support the arts to some degree, at least the western governments. Again, it is the mark of a country’s greatness.” Good comment here but let me toss a question out to you. Would you rather take that PBS money spent and put it towards feeding the hungry? Healing the sick? Clothing the naked? Again, spending govt monies is about priorities and what we’re saying here is that giving money to Elmo is more important than putting a shirt on a persons back or giving a govt job to pick up trash.. A further brain twister would be maybe that guy doesn’t have a shirt because the govt crushed him with taxes to pay for PBS….

    I also think we should cut foreign aid. I find it hard to justify anything more than 0…even to countries I like. Not saying we have to be isolationists but again..where are the priorities?


    Yah. Low hanging fruit that in the end people may rally around and defend but then will offer to cut some other entitlement program. It may be that the end game isn’t PBS but force the entitlement defenders to defend multiple fronts to find the chink in the armor.

    I agree with you on the foreign debt issue. We give money to countries that tell us to go flip ourselves. I’d say they can go flip themselves and we’ll keep the money (and return it to the American taxpayer)

    • February 28th, 2011 at 20:46 | #36

      @marin, we don’t need more uneducated people. Things are bad enough as it is and we do feed and shelter the poor. Many are that way because they didn’t take advantage of the training given to them. I speak with fairly good authority on this one. I am not talking about the sick and disabled.

      You ask if I would rather have PBS or cloth the naked and feed the hungry? NO.

      PBS $$ is but a small portion of the wealth of this nation. Virginia cut its public TV spending by 10%. I think that is fair. That’s my idea of priority.

      I understand, in the past, that we gave money to nations to keep them out of the pockets of the soviets. I don’t think there is a need for that. Other than Israel, it seems the more we give, the more they hate us. In the case of Israel, the more we give, the more other currounding countries hate us.

  29. February 28th, 2011 at 20:05 | #37

    #34 in moderation. I agree with #33.

  30. Censored bybvbl
    February 28th, 2011 at 20:06 | #39

    I think the bad feelings about PBS and NPR herald from the belief that they provided an alternative voice (independent and less commercial) during the 1970s. For some people they’re always going to be equated with leftist counter-culture regardless of their present programming.

  31. February 28th, 2011 at 20:12 | #41

    I was only born in ’76. What’s my excuse for “hating” them? :)

    • February 28th, 2011 at 20:50 | #42

      Who is it that you are ‘hating?’ You are an anomoly?? Well, you know what *I* have accused you of being. :mrgreen:

  32. February 28th, 2011 at 20:19 | #43

    1976? Given PBS has been around since then, it is amazing they don’t have you brainwashed! I go back to 1952. Until recent years, most Boomers could not even see the bias in the news media.

    Good show! Keep it up!

    • February 28th, 2011 at 20:52 | #44

      Exactly what is it about PBS that you think brainwashes people, Tom? This is what I am trying to figure out. You need to know that I consider you a youngster.

      I see very little on PBS that offends me. I like the Brit shows and just about anything Ken Burns does is worthy of a good watch.

  33. Censored bybvbl
    February 28th, 2011 at 20:26 | #45

    Marinm, I don’t know that conservatives have ever forgiven them. It’s become part of the lore – commie, leftists, alternative media…

    • February 28th, 2011 at 20:52 | #46


      Where are the lefty commie bastards? I simply don’t see them.

  34. BoyThreeOne
    February 28th, 2011 at 20:44 | #47

    @Censored bybvbl
    Maybe they’ve just had too many Peter, Paul and Mary specials. The station here always had Peter, Paul and Mary for its pledge drives.

    • February 28th, 2011 at 20:54 | #48

      Mary is dead now, I am sad to say. I always enjoyed those and the doo whop shows, with lots of elderly black men in matching suits.

  35. BoyThreeOne
    February 28th, 2011 at 20:54 | #49

    That’s what Frances (partner) said! The Sesame Street diversity reason.

  36. BoyThreeOne
    February 28th, 2011 at 20:55 | #50

    Yes. I am a Peter, Paul and Mary fan and miss Mary. I like Pete Seeger, too.

  37. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 21:15 | #51

    Again, spending govt monies is about priorities and what we’re saying here is that giving money to Elmo is more important than putting a shirt on a persons back or giving a govt job to pick up trash..

    That’s a really unfair and somewhat unpleasant statement. We’ve been discussing the merits of PBS in remote areas, the sucess of public private partnerships and the agreed upon quality of the programming. We’ve also been discussing the differences between the Smithsonian and PBS as far as merit. Finally as mentioned above one of the very best things about PBS is the presence of civility and the lack of facial contortions during discussions…… folks we’ve just gone network, CNN and Fox.

    I have a suggestion for subsidies:

    “..an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process”.

  38. Juturna
    February 28th, 2011 at 21:17 | #52

    The oil industry plays on our fears – and they’re very sucessful at it.

  39. Elena
    February 28th, 2011 at 21:31 | #53

    I grew up with PBS, their role in a civil society is critical in my opinion. Furthermore, all these cuts don’t really do a whole lot to decrease the deficit until and unless you get to the big stuff.

  40. Censored bybvbl
    February 28th, 2011 at 21:35 | #54

    I’m another P,P & M fan – saw them several times when I was in high school and college. Also watch the old guys in suits. Still great music.

  41. Elena
    February 28th, 2011 at 21:38 | #55

    PBS is the one place I can to and know that my television won’t be infiltrated with crap, it’s really that simple. Besides the past two years, I have always donated. In fact, my son grew up on PBS, never saw cartoon network etc. There is a difference in educational television and who would argue that?

    I wonder, maybe Exxon and all the other oil companies who are making a mint, could just give a smidgen of their subidies and allow PBS to survive.

  42. February 28th, 2011 at 21:39 | #56

    Confrontational? No. Just blunt. I admit I have an agenda. I would like to address your starting assumption. Because there are not any good progressive/liberal answers, I know you don’t have good answers to my questions. Nonetheless, I am curious as to how you will respond. So I am stubbornly pursuing the issue.

    So let’s go to the heart of this matter. You have assumed government spending on a program like public broadcasting is ethical. I think that is a flawed assumption. You don’t? Then why don’t you just defend the assumption? Too confrontational or too logical?

    This country is running 1.5 trillion dollar deficits. You could cut the entire defense budget, and you would have only cut the deficit by only one third. Yet without spending on police and military forces, without a penal system, without judges and juries, we would lose our liberty, the freedom that makes this nation special. And government is the only qualified organization to manage such concerns defense and law enforcement.

    So where can we cut spending? I think we have to cut back on the things that we can do without government financing and management. That, of course, includes quite a few government programs besides the ones that fund PBS.

  43. February 28th, 2011 at 21:47 | #57

    When I was growing up, commerical TV had plenty of good programming for children. I partly blame PBS for messing that up.

    What do I think happened?
    1. With the help of government financing, PBS penetrated and then dominated a niche market once served by commerical broadcasters.
    2. We did not enforce our laws against pornography.
    3. We allowed the interests of public sector unions to override the need to properly educate our children. That includes a good education in ethics.

    That third problem is perhaps the most serious. If poorly educated people do not make the worst entertainment choices, who does?

  44. February 28th, 2011 at 21:51 | #58

    I don’t disagree with Elena that it’s small stuff compared to the bigger picture but sometimes you have to start small.

    Everything needs to be on the table. Plain and simple. Everything.

    I understand that it may be confrontational to look at a choice between Elmo and a job (and money) for a person to pick trash (in lieu of simply collecting money to be parked on a sofa) but that’s where we are. I think it’s just brutal honesty. We need legislators and executives to be strong enough to say – this program is very very popular but needs to go because we just can’t afford it OR we should never have been doing it in the first place.

    Elena, I think it’s wrong to take a smidgen from Exxon or other companies to ‘help’ PBS. I think they can do so voluntarily but I think it’s wrong to do it at the point of a gun. And, I’m not being hyperbolic. When the govt TAKES from one person to give to another that’s legal THEFT. PBS should be able to support it’s own weight and adapt it’s offerings to gain itself more viewers and private donations.

  45. February 28th, 2011 at 22:05 | #59

    @Citizen Tom

    I remember watching cartoons on Saturday’s.. Loved ’em. My parents would park us for a bit or if we woke up before them we’d turn on the TV ourselves and give our parents some alone time for a few hours. Then we’d eat sugar fortified cereal and then run around OUTSIDE and play.

  46. February 28th, 2011 at 22:07 | #60

    @Citizen Tom, on your blog, you set the standards of polite discussion. On our blog, Elena and I sent the standards. Nuff said?

    We don’t agree on the original premise. I believe that government plays a role in society other than military force whether its local, state or national. I expect if we could go back in time 25 years, you wouldn’t have liked PBS, for whatever reason.

    Forget money. It will probably always be paid for in part by the people. Why? Because many people enjoy it and want it. Their wishes are as important as yours.

    Let’s talk about the real reasons you don’t like it.

    Also, I question what you thought was good television when you were a child. Remember, I will probably not be a stranger to these programs. I honestly can’t think of any great shows. Howdy Doody? Mickey Mouse Club, lots of cartoons?

    I will also add that the Ken Burns shows and the American Experience Shows tell people about their culture and the history of this country. That is never a bad thing.

  47. Elena
    February 28th, 2011 at 22:11 | #61

    I guess I must have grown up in an alternate universe. When I grew up there were five stations, what market are you referring to? If anything, it is in today’s market that PBS is struggling to compete.

    I know many retired people that are not able to afford cable or satellite, PBS is part of their common connection with the world.

    Not sure how porn plays a part in PBS, but whatever floats your boat Tom 😉

  48. February 28th, 2011 at 22:20 | #62

    I only had 3 stations. I think there was a real fuzzy pbs type of station. I can’t remember.

    I have never seen anything remotely close to porn on PBS. Tom, have you ever watched PBS?

  49. February 28th, 2011 at 22:31 | #63

    Confrontation is trying to make your opponent in a debate the subject of the argument. I have not done that to you. I have not speculated upon your motives, and I have been upfront about my agenda.

    I will readily admit a specific dislike for government-financed propaganda.

    To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.“ — Thomas Jefferson

    Trying to make me the subject of this debate won’t get you anywhere. When PBS first came out, I thought it okay. I saw my parents liked it. Then I slowly began to see the same problem Jefferson observed. Youth makes one a Progressive/Liberal. Experience make one a Conservative.

    Consider your response. What does it involve?
    1. Tom is not being nice.
    2. Tom just attacks PBS because he is a meany.
    3. Forget money. (Is that because it is not yours?)
    4. Tom needs psychoanalysis. Ouch!
    5. PBS does good things. Nothing else matters.

    Do you really believe the end justifies the means? I think you know better. Nonetheless, consider your response.

    • February 28th, 2011 at 23:20 | #64

      @Tom, knock it off. I spoke to the demeanor I expect on this blog. It has nothing to do with the discussion so don’t even try to mix it up. You are not the subject. Don’t flatter yourself. I never said any of the ridiculous crap you attributed to me.

      Furthermore, you aren’t making any sense. I am not sure what your point is about the internet and youtube. Those aren’t substitutes for TV.

      The post asks for reasons other than budgetary for the dislike of PBS, just to clarify the discussion.

      And for the record, I don’t you want to get into the experience pissing contest with me.

  50. February 28th, 2011 at 22:49 | #65

    Five stations? As a military brat, I had to move quite a bit. From my perspective there was only ABC, CBS, and NBC. At different times of the day and week, the networks targeted different audiences. Saturday morning, for example, featured cowboys and cartoons.

    It has been decades since I watched much TV. When I considered the possibility of exposing my children to television, I lost interest and threw out the TV.

    So what is current? With all the new channels, I suppose I could find something interesting and worthwhile, but I would rather explore the Internet. If I ever feel the yearning to watch a TV show or a movie again, the Internet has Youtube and other such stuff.

  51. Elena
    February 28th, 2011 at 23:14 | #66

    You said:

    1. With the help of government financing, PBS penetrated and then dominated a niche market once served by commerical broadcasters.

    Back this up with facts please. Even if this were true one upon a time ago, which I doubt, it certainly isn’t relevant today. In act, PBS provides a very different niche, an anomoly from my perspective, one that should be nurtured in a free society, not stifled. News hour with Jim Lehrer is some of the best news programming out there.

    Furthermore, my godfather and father, both men I admire and have done much in the public arena are still progressive liberals, not left wingers, but the old fashioned JFK democrats and I am proud of them.

  52. BoyThreeOne
    February 28th, 2011 at 23:26 | #67

    Citizen Tom,
    What is your definition of “ethical,” since you throw that word around like it’s you very own creation? MoonHowler has answered your question about the ethical rightness of PBS again and again. It’s “ethical” for a society to provide educational resources to its population. You can redefine “ethical” to suit whatever sanctimonious purpose you want, but you can’t impose your narrow-minded definition on other people. We have our own moral sensibilities and are also tax payers.

    Let’s consider your comments:

    You call people you disagree with “‘human parasites’ {who} discard ethical considerations and form alliances.” People who form alliances for what? My church belongs to an alliance of other social service organizations that seek funding to provide services to homeless LGBT youth. We think this is about as ethical as it gets.

    You use blanket statements like “government-financed propaganda” to denigrate public services that others value.

    You redefine words such as “confrontational” to mean whatever will exonerate you and cast someone else as wrong.

    You contradict yourself from paragraph to paragraph, railing against “democracy” in favor of the rights of the minority in a republic, only to lash out at government funding for things “almost no one” wants. What about the rights of “almost no one” in your minority-rules republic? Maybe you don’t consider independent journalism important, but some of us absolutely do and would rank it right up there with defense.

    Your opinions aren’t facts. I would call them pompous. Many comments on this thread involve far more than refuting your position. It isn’t that interesting.

  53. March 1st, 2011 at 00:01 | #68

    Standing ovation BTO!

  54. Elena
    March 1st, 2011 at 00:01 | #69


    You had me at “what is your defintion of “ethical” :)

  55. Elena
    March 1st, 2011 at 00:03 | #70

    The point Moon was making was that your entrance into the discussion demonstrated poor manners and was not condusive to promote productive dialogue.

  56. Elena
    March 1st, 2011 at 00:06 | #71

    Great point about theft, that is the way I would feel if I had any control of my tax dollars. I would absolutely not one penny going to any oil company.

  57. March 1st, 2011 at 00:10 | #72

    You have made some excellent points, Juturna. We shouldn’t have to make choice between PBS and some having a shirt.

    The unpleasantness you described makes me wonder why conservatives always seem to be down on this country other than its mythical pastoral existence in 1776. I think it is pretty neat right now. Sure, it could improve but I do love my country.

  58. e
    March 1st, 2011 at 06:25 | #73

    pbs is nothing more than a propaganda wing of the democrat party, and don’t deserve a dime from the american taxpayer. let them compete for revenue in the free market like everyone else. obviously they can’t, because no one is interested in their drivel

  59. Old Fashion Liberal
    March 1st, 2011 at 08:50 | #74


    It’s “ethical” for a society to provide educational resources to its population.

    That is just an unsupported assertion. I think you are assuming the existing system is ethical just because it is the existing system. People use to regard slavery much the same way, and they too refused to consider any other possibility.

    Rather than responding angrily, please give CT’s questions some thought.

    If enough people (those with guns) decide a monarch “represents” society, does that mean that monarch can do whatever he wants? Nonetheless, people have a right to their property?

    Taxation involve taking money from people whether they want to give it up or not. How do we balance individual rights against societal priorities? What is wrong with considering the trade-offs? When does government become the problem instead of the solution? At what point does government threaten subvert our rights instead of protecting our rights?

  60. March 1st, 2011 at 09:14 | #75

    @Old Fashion Liberal

    Anger? I don’t hear anger in his tone. Why would you assume BTO is angry? Not in the least. Perhaps you consider all opinions that don’t agree with yours angry?

    It all depends on how one defines ‘ethical’ now doesn’t it.

    People also can decide that their government provide services. Frankly, I am tired of some folks who want to do away with many of the things I particularly like about my country–things that are controlled by the government, like national parks, PBS, museums, monuments, etc.

    Now which of those things do you want to remove because it is stealing from you?

  61. George S. Harris
    March 1st, 2011 at 09:36 | #76

    “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.“ — Thomas Jefferson

    Have you ever noticed how the right wingnuts always drag out some quote from Jefferson to justify their positon? I suppose Citizen Tom doesn’t think owning slaves, fathering children by a slave and then keeping them as slaves isn’t, “sinful and tyrannical.” I guess it all depends on your viewpoint.

    Tried reading CT’s blog but the gag factor was WAY too high for me. Where does he some up with all his allegations. I think I know, but the thought is repulsive.

  62. Censored bybvbl
    March 1st, 2011 at 09:47 | #77

    I think it’s naive to expect much variety in commercial television. If a theme ( reality show, quiz show, talk show) is popular, it will be repeated ad nauseum in all its varieties until the audience is finally ready to run screaming from the room. And advertisers will back and sell these shows because of the initial popularity.

    PBS has the advantage of being able to offer something to niche markets and to move more quickly to more interesting subjects.

    Even if you totally despise Oliver Stone’s politics, if you watch “South of the Border” and observe the tv news blurbs shown, you’ll notice little difference between CNN’s and Fox’s reporting on the Venezuelan coups (and what they got wrong). A little more in-depth and independent reporting is not a bad thing. I could watch CNN or Fox for three hours and what is “new” could usually be wrapped up in five minutes (probably the average person’s attention span for news). Anyone who wants a more in depth review of a subject will have to go elsewhere (usually PBS or NPR).

  63. e
    March 1st, 2011 at 09:55 | #78

    and if i want a really in-depth analysis of current events, i can subject myself to a six-hour harangue by hugo chavez or fidel castro. in-depth review is laudable, provided the review is fair and balanced, and not serving a political objective of the programmers.

  64. Old Fashion Liberal
    March 1st, 2011 at 10:04 | #79


    It all depends on how one defines ‘ethical’ now doesn’t it.

    I am not sure why you want go there. Kind of defeats the whole idea of multiculturalism, but it does sort of support a belief in moral relativism.

    You can make a case. We do easily adopt the moral conventions of our time. That is why people use to accept something we now think abhorrent, slavery, as normal. That is why too many peoples still define those of other tribes, nations, races, and creeds as outsiders. That is why people can murder outsiders without remorse. They have accepted the convention they are not dealing with other human beings.

    So how should we define what is ethical? What is the difference between doing what right and what is wrong?

    In this nation, the United States, we generally have accepted the belief everyone has equality before God, and therefore, deserves equal consideration before the Law. We focus on the rights of individual human beings. That is, we traditionally consider the rights of the individual supreme. Instead of insisting that each individual must serve some ill-defined concept of society, we balance the rights of each individual against the rights of other individuals.

    Why is that ethical? It depend upon what you believe, but I think it reflects our Christian heritage and a belief we share the same moral code — the one our Creator implanted within each of our hearts. I believe w are each ultimately answerable to God, not society. I believe we each have the right practice our own religious beliefs.

  65. Censored bybvbl
    March 1st, 2011 at 10:11 | #80

    e, and I hope you would be able to spot any propaganda in any of their programs and do the research to refute it. I feel that PBS tries to get a variety of info/programs out there, not just the latest gimmicky show/fad. (Commercial tv offers one of my spouse’s relatives a good life – chauffer-driven trip out of the city to a comfortable home in Westchester thanks to Americans’ lust for reality tv. He laughs all the way to the bank. The dumber the audience, the easier the sell.)

  66. Juturna
    March 1st, 2011 at 12:55 | #81

    The ‘conservatives” of today and I use that term for those that love use that term about themselves as if it were a club membership – would have been Tories.

  67. Juturna
    March 1st, 2011 at 12:56 | #82

    I stil think we should first cut aid to other nations. Then come back and take the low hanging fruit if that pleases you. Of course, that is the EASIEST route – low hanging fruit.

Comments are closed.