Monday, May 02, 2005

Republicans Bashing PBS

Every few years it seems that the Republicans go on the attack against PBS. Now the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit entity financed by Congress, is aggressively pressing public television to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias. This is prompting some public broadcasting leader, including the chief executive of PBS, to object that his actions pose a threat to editorial independence.

PBS may be at the mercy of the government to some extent since they receive nearly $400 million in federal money annually. This could be a major problem when the current Education Secretary Margaret Spellings publicly denounced the cartoon Buster because he visited a pair of lesbian parents in one episode.

One of the main targets for Republicans is Now With Bill Moyers. Moyers was consistently critical of Republicans and the Bush administration. Days after the Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 2002 elections he said the entire federal government was "united behind a right-wing agenda" that included "the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives."
Recently, PBS refused for months to sign its latest contract with the corporation governing federal financing of national programming, holding up the release of $26.5 million. For the first time, the corporation argued that PBS's agreeing to abide by its own journalistic standards was not sufficient, but that it must adhere to the "objectivity and balance" language in the charter. In a January letter to the leaders of the three biggest producing stations, in New York, Boston and Washington, the deputy general counsel of PBS warned that this could give the corporation editorial control, infringing on its First Amendment rights and possibly leading to a demand for balance in each and every show. (The contract was finally signed about a month ago.)
None of the Republicans I know watch PBS. Maybe it's all that Fox News, Nascar, and 700 Club that has turned their brains to mush so that they can't appreciate the more refined, more cultured programs that PBS has to offer.


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