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PBS is no longer necessary. Nor was it ever a good idea. 2/24/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in PBS.

Now that an article titled “Is PBS Still Necessary?” has appeared in the political class’ newspaper of record, the NY Times, we can conclude that a consensus has finally been reached — “no.” Viewers have tuned out. The average PBS primetime show is now more than 20 years old and gets the same Nielsen ratings as wrestling’s “Friday Night Smackdown.” Even politicians have tuned out, finding it’s no longer worth fighting for. The fact that it was once a partisan plaything of Democrats was proven by their outrage when Bush appointed a Republican chairman to balance its lefty excesses. But with those excesses now tamed, and viewers now bombarded with a meteor shower of better New Media alternatives, this dinosaur seems bound for extinction, save the eternal life support given to every federal agency.

But the fact is that public broadcasting, which is really “government broadcasting,” was always a misguided and un-American idea. It was bad enough when the federal government seized the broadcast spectrum, and made broadcast license renewals contingent upon the networks proving they were responsible corporate citizens. This led to stale and cowardly network news programming that covered the workings of government favorably and avoided irritating the wrong politicians — just the kind of thing that our First Amendment was designed to protect us against. But then, government had to add insult to injury by launching its own channel. And its claim that it delivered “programming you can’t get anywhere else” was a scam from the very beginning.

We certainly could get the same center-left, establishment-friendly news somewhere else — on the license-castrated TV networks. We did not need government to provide children’s shows like “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” which were already evolving on network affiliates and local TV — e.g. “Captain Kangaroo,” “Romper Room,” and a myriad of shows featuring clowns. We did not even need government to deliver highbrow entertainment that elites felt so important for their self-images and the masses. Before PBS, programming like the Ed Sullivan Show regularly included scenes from Broadway plays, operas, and ballet. Public broadcasting simply preempted this programming for upscale tastes and stopped its commercial development.

It was a neat trick for government to co-opt the name “public” in “Public Broadcasting” and represent itself as the people. But now with the Internet, the real “public” has the opportunity to deliver its own programming. It is their voices that matter most in this country, so let’s hear a multitude of them competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. It is time for the government to shut-up.


1. reuben - 2/25/08

sooo lo-ong it weren’t good to know ya (3x)
been a long time since you began
but you’ve go-ot to be movin along


I had a “discussion” with a local PBS producer at an event at the history museum in December and he actually claimed that PBS is not biased. It was clear that he was unaware of what has been transpiring in our culture this past decade. It always amazes me how isolated the leftist media cogs are despite our open society and new technology. It must require a Herculean effort to maintain this self-referential fundamentalism. It would not be a stretch to say that leftists are — at least in terms of being so myopic they fail to see what is going on around them — less fanatical and insular than jihadists. They honestly, and without any sense of irony, fail to grasp reality even as their universe is shrinking back to singularity. What must it be like to not even realize the world has passed you by?

“It was the pictures that got smaller!”

2. reuben - 2/25/08

Sorry, I meant to say that leftists are MORE fanatical than jihadists

3. Ken Hahn - 2/26/08

Can we then sue Bill Moyers and his rotten kid for the money they stole from taxpayers for running a Democratic Party propaganda machine?

4. Fred Beloit - 2/26/08

Why is it taking so long to dump this corrupt organization?

5. Ed Wallis - 2/26/08

…I trust the same will go – and I do hope it goes – for “National Public Radio”?!

6. John McCarthy - 2/26/08

What? You want to dump NPR?
But then we’ll miss the only programming worth
listening to…..
Car Talk!

7. Joanna - 2/26/08

Aw, come on! What about Masterpiece Theater and Mystery? Where’re they going to go? Where am I going to get my BBC fix?

8. Snoop Diggity-DANG-Dawg - 2/26/08

“But with those [liberal] excesses now tamed…”

Those excesses have NOT been tamed. Check out Charlie Rose, or any Frontline report, or the Jim Lehrer News Hour, or any Bill Moyers report.

There is zero conservative programming on PBS.

9. ramona - 2/26/08

“Where am I going to get my BBC fix?”

How about on the channel called BBC America?

10. jeremy - 2/26/08

Sure, you can say it’s useless now that the funding has been cut, and it’s voice deliberately squashed. It still beats anything on daytime television.

The internet, our last bastion of hope for free news and information… unless of course we all went outside and started talking to people again. Fat chance.

11. John the Dennis Miller Libertarian - 2/26/08

Charlie Rose isn’t too bad – he had one of the best interviews on Fred Thompson I’d ever seen.

Alas, the death of pbs, which brought me Monty Python all those years ago (albeit via BBC).

12. reuben - 2/28/08

John McCarthy

Good point about Car Talk. Steve and Ray could make plenty of gelt in commercial TV or radio. I wonder why no one has made them an offer yet?

I wonder which will come first?
Victory over NYT day (VNYTD)
Victory over PBS day (VPBSD)
Victory over NPR day (VNPRD)

Any one care to pick?

13. Andrew Ian Dodge - 3/1/08

I highly agree. But then again the BBC is about time for the privitasation/the chop as well.

14. Steve Boriss - 3/1/08

Andrew, I couldn’t agree more. GIven BBC’s virtual monopoly on broadcast news in a free country, I put it in the category of “menace to society.”

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