Friday, February 18, 2005

The Hoisting of PBS' Head

In Their Sites
Welcome to the Bush II era of media intimidation. This new political front is turning "the chill that has already descended over our nation’s media into a deep freeze." But some media are suffering the cold worse than others, which raises questions about selective targeting by "conservo-drones" out to score political points against their nemeses in the "liberal media," while awarding others with a pass.

First, the Public Broadcasting Service caves to our new Secretary of Education and slashes an episode of "Postcards from Buster," which has the asthmatic bunny visiting lesbians in Vermont. Now, PBS is bleeping American soldiers who dare curse while on patrol in Iraq. The cowering bureaucrats at PBS have decided to censor next Tuesday's "Frontline" documentary about the war in Iraq, removing 13 expletives uttered by soldiers.

The producers of the "Frontline" program in question wrote a memo to executives at PBS calling on them to stand firm and broadcast "A Company of Soldiers” intact, as it was intended:
We believe what is at issue is not the particulars of this case, but the principle of editorial independence. Because overreaching by the FCC is at its heart a First Amendment issue, all programs are at risk, whether art, science, history, culture, or public affairs.
Rather than fight the good fight for our First Amendment, PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell has decided to decamp from the network at the end of her term. But before ducking out, Mitchell has announced that public television will conduct a “strategic assessment” of their children's lineup “We will create new and even better standards for programming" for children, Mitchell told a congressional subcommittee on Thursday.

Translation: "strategic assessment" = more scrubbing of PBS content.

Meanwhile, Fox plans to go ahead with the airing of a Simpson’s episode "There's Something About Marrying," in which Springfield legalizes same-sex marriage and Homer cashes in playing minister. One would expect swift condemnation from the Washington conservatives who slammed Buster and, earlier, SpongeBob SquarePants. Don’t count on it, these prigs won't waste their powder during sweeps, especially with a program broadcast on Fox News Channel's sister network. They're out to spill PBS' blood.

Which tells you some about the real motivation lying behind the new McCarthyism. It's not about making our airwaves safe for lily Christians, but about punishing media that the right believes slants in the opposite direction.

Kay McFadden writes: "Better for Mitchell to quit before American public television comes to resemble Al-Jazeera or state-run TV in Russia by reflecting the government's ideology instead of the taxpayers' diversity."

End Note: I initially had some trepidation about drawing comparison between the campaign against PBS ("Buster") and the pass given Fox ("Simpsons"). After all, it was Fox that received the highest FCC fine in 2004 for an episode of "Married By America" that included people licking whipped cream off strippers' bodies. But given this administration's taste for propaganda and message control, it's not a stretch to assert that they also favor a double standard when it comes to punishing the media.


A-muse-ing said...

McCarthyism indeed! I agree. I've been wondering just how many Bushies actually idolize that man. Furthermore, I find it interesting that the entire point of the Simpsons episode is gay marriage, whereas the lesbian parents in the "Buster" episode are background characters to the real story. And, beyond that, PBS's contract, under which they have been making the "Buster" show, states that it must incorporate diversity in this show. But, appparently, diversity only applies to economic backgrounds or some such nonsense. Ask the majority of the Right: homosexuality isn't a diversity trait, it's evil! *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I for one am outraged. Public Broadcasting should be an open and free place for all ideals and opinions. Its just the PUBLIC, not supposed to play into the Corprorate hands, and now we see it as just a sham. Its been a lie all along and Big Brother will not allow anyone to comment contrarily to the status quo of their own agenda. I am disgusted and will no longer contribute to PBS, in any form, until they stand alone as an entity for the People of this coutnry. Censorship has no place in a Free Society and this just proves more blatantly that we are under a Facist!!! Regime.

Boycott PBS!!! Until they once again become a medum for Free Speach.

spyder said...

This isn't the first time Fox is getting the pass, get out of jail free, card. Their most popular "teen" drama the OC is featuring a lesbian liaison involving one of the real stars of the show. Likewise the various interrelations of characters on Fox's other primetime lineups represent News Corps understanding that money generation requires amoral decisions. The administration's targeting of CBS, PBS, Time Warner's CNN, represents Rove's unwillingness to interfere with his free huge megaphone provided by Fox, while assassinating his critics on those media that might just being trying to illuminate the "truth."

Anonymous said...

According to insiders at WGBH, Spellings' Buster Bunny bashing was more than just rhetorical red meat.

They say she effectively cut funding for the series, and has cast a pall over all PBS childrens' programming.

NHgal said...

Unfortunately PBS is a victim of the system. They rely on Grants,donations and Federal funding to keep going.
All it would take is a few FCC fines to really do some damage(the threat if they air the military piece.) They are between a rock and a hard place.
I don't think boycotting PBS does anything more than exacerbate the problem and blame the victim.
We need to concentrate on spending the next 4 years developing a strategy to take back some of the power in Washingto...without the power we can't change a damn thing(opps! fine a'comin)

Jon Koppenhoefer said...

I'm listening to the soundtrack from 'Apocalypse Now'.

Kurtz is speaking:

"They're training young men to drop fire on people...but their commanders won't allow them to write 'fuck'...on their airplanes's OBSCENE...the horror...the horror."

For me, this passage sums up the 'stench of hypocrisy'. All the bluenoses throughout history have been party to this madness, and we have more among us now than ever before.

God help this corrupt and decadent political culture.

the-ripper said...

There is something evil and deviant going on in our nation, that has absolute suffocating power over
liberty and democracy. This evil and deviant power is now taken moves to stiffle one of the last expressions of reason and intelligence on television,
public broadcasting. What can we expect from the future of public broadcasting ? Another bike build- off show in place of Nova, or perhaps a Pat Robertson critique of Joseph Cambell ? Given the
condition of our most recent economy, war on what ever and who ever, and the contempt shown for our nations fundamental values, a big fuzzy gay bunny realy dosn't bother me very much.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, Bush stacked the PBS Board with two new conservative members. The folks at PBS have likely been getting lots of internal flack for the past few years. The strategy is always the brazen and unreasonable with your demands, then "settle" for what you wanted at first. In the end, we will have reasonable children's programming, and NO real news or commentary.

Unknown said...

Maybe the difference is that PBS is public whereas FOX is a private company.

Lumpy said...

PBS gets heat (for nothing) from the radical right. PBS caves to mythical "Liberal Media" nonsense and hires Repukes while sloping their programming to fit right wing foreheads. PBS members object and stop giving -- they are not replaced by Repukes who have been coddled because nothing could make them give a nickle to PBS.
Look, they want to kill PBS. That's it. Is anybody getting this? You can't make them happy. So fuck em', make your donors happy and fight back.