I’m tired of hearing reactionary attacks on public broadcasting. Here’s a quote from the overrated extreme conservative and not-a-chance-in-hell presidential candidate Mike Huckabee urging Republicans to cut a deal on the budget in The New York Times today:
Nobody’s more pro-life than me. Nobody. But as much as I want to see Planned Parenthood defunded, as much as I want to see NPR lose their funding, the reality is the president and the Senate are never going to go along with that. So win the deal you can win and live to fight another day.
It’s not clear to me what NPR funding has to do with the current impasse at all, but okay buddy, take your shot.
I’m even more frustrated that those attacks seems to go unanswered. Fans of public broadcasting should consider themselves to be on notice. Conservatives are gunning for NPR, just like they were gunning for ACORN. It took years, but conservatives were persistent in their attacks of an organization devoted to defending poor and working class people. Liberals remained on the defensive, and eventually conservatives won. The hidden camera tricks that have recently embarrassed some NPR executives are reminiscent of the tactics used to attack ACORN. Conservatives are like the Terminator. They’re single-minded in their purpose, and they will not stop until they’ve achieved their mission.
Why defend public broadcasting? Because it offers the kind of serious, calm, and intelligent programming that private TV and radio so utterly fail to deliver.
Here’s a sampling of public broadcasting from just the past few weeks.
- There are hour long radio shows on Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the context of the Arab uprisings, or on the federal budget, or two hours recapping the week’s domestic and international news. Each program is broadcast without commercials, and, more importantly, without partisan invective.
- Charlie Rose had a discussion about the future of nuclear power, the iPad 2 and tablets, and an update on the war in Afghanistan (remember that?), to name just a few.
- Earlier this week PBS was re-airing its groundbreaking and award-winning documentary series The Civil War.
- Not big into politics and history? How about jazz, or art, or sea life, or Alzheimer’s research?
- How about just a nightly news program that isn’t dominated by cheesy human interest stories?
I challenge anyone to find privately funded programming that can compare to any one of these shows, much less a network that airs all of it.
And all this programming is available for free online. This at a time when content owners are stifling innovation by suing cable operators over allowing paying customers to access the service they’re paying for on their iPad.
Public broadcasting informs the public, helps to civilize a political culture that badly needs it, and elevates the discourse. It is worth defending, and vigorously.