Saturday, June 11, 2005

Big Bird Goes Under the Knife

Laura Attends the Wake
The House Appropriations subcommittee voted on Thursday to slash more than $100 million in funding for public broadcasting, which if passed by the full Congress would gut programming on NPR, PBS and other public media. The cuts could deprive millions of American children of educational programming that helps keep popular shows such as “Sesame Street,” “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Arthur” on the air.

The vote is part of a concerted campaign, involving GOP House representatives and partisan board members at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to both gag and starve public media in America. Instead of representing their constituents, politicians are acting as partisan operatives seeking to dismantle media -- even children's programming -- that doesn't follow the one-party line.

The subcommittee voted to sharply reduce support for popular children's educational programs such as "Sesame Street" and "Postcards from Buster" in addition to educational resources provided by hundreds of local stations as part of the "Ready to Learn" program. The legislators also moved to eliminate all federal money for CPB within two years, starting with a $100 million reduction in the budget for 2006.

The action is in direct opposition to American opinion on public broadcasting. Research shows strong support for public broadcasting's programs and for continued public financial support. A 2003 poll by the Tarrance Group, for example, found that more than 75 percent of those surveyed said "it is important for the federal government to support [PBS and NPR] financially."

Despite the widespread public opposition to efforts to change PBS and NPR, CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson continues to stack the CPB board and executive offices with ideological cronies. Recent news reports suggest the leading candidate to fill the vacant post of CPB president is Patricia Harrison, former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

More than 85,000 concerned citizens have signed a Free Press petition calling for Tomlinson to resign, following his much-publicized efforts to meddle with PBS and NPR programming that doesn't adhere to his personal notion of "objectivity and balance." Free Press will deliver the petitions to Tomlinson when he convenes the CPB's board of directors meeting in Washington on June 20.


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