No one can explain why public broadcasting exists any more, yet Congress will continue to subsidize this entertainment for a few 7/19/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Public Broadcasting.
“A government bureau is the closest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth,” President Reagan once said, and that is certainly true of U.S. public broadcasting, founded in 1967 before the emergence of cable TV and the Internet. So, there were no surprises when Congress, by a lopsided, bi-partisan margin (357-72), voted to continue subsidizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). But, nobody can tell you why.
Bill Siemering, a founding member of CPB who wrote NPR’s first mission statement said, “The whole point behind NPR was to be inclusive, to reflect the diversity that is America, and to let all views be heard.” But hasn’t cable TV done a much better job of that than public broadcasting, and won’t the Internet make this issue obsolete entirely? Jack Mitchell, author of “Listener Supported: History and Culture of Public Radio” once said “the whole idea of public broadcasting…is that the marketplace will not produce everything that’s required of a good society.” So, what’s now on public broadcasting that we cannot find anywhere else, either on cable or the Internet? But as you’d suspect, the worst explanations of all come from members of Congress like Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR): “[Public broadcasting] is providing a voice for America, a noncommercial, independent voice that is sadly lacking.” Say what?
Now that public broadcasting has already outlived the “public” it was designed to serve, it will no doubt outlive “broadcasting” itself, as news and entertainment ultimately converge onto the web. But, there will always be money, which will always draw talent, which will always produce good material, which will always draw audiences, no matter how small. So if you happen to be among the lucky few whose tastes align with this programming, be sure to salute the flag and thank your neighbors who involuntarily subsidize your entertainment.