Friday, April 29, 2005

Put the Public Back in PBS

We have just announced a plan to "take public broadcasting to the people," working with the Consumers Union, Commom Cause and the Consumer Federation of America to propose a series of local hearings across the country where the public will talk directly to broadcasters and policymakers about the future of public broadcasting.

In a report released today, "A New Standard: Building a Public Broadcasting System that Deserves Public Support," Free Press called for "a public ascertainment process" before lawmakers and bureaucrats attempt to set politically motivated standards for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and other public broadcasters.

The report recommends a series of town meetings that include a broad array of constituencies, elected officials, and decision makers from local PBS and other noncommercial stations. It was released following a series of recent statements by politicians, bureaucrats and commentators that questioned the viability of PBS and other noncommercial media.

Recent appointments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) raise additional concerns that a partisan agenda may have overtaken the agency that Congress put in place to safeguard public broadcasters from political interference and commercial pressure.

Many across the political spectrum seem willing to abandon public broadcasting, allowing it to turn it into a purely commercial enterprise. It is critical to bring viewers out to talk about what they want and how they would like to get it. And the only way to save PBS and other noncommercial media is from the bottom up.

Policy and programming decisions should not be based on the perceived interests of the public deduced by partisan political leaders and bureaucrats.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was involved in public television back in the early 70's when President Nixon vetoed the public broadcasting act of 1972. This was done in retaliation to various public affairs programs on PBS that he claimed was anti-administration. He and his political operatives targeted Robin McNeil and Washington Week in Review. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was in a political turmoil and put a funding vice around the PBS head. In fact, at that time, the "P" in the PBS logo looked left on the screen. It was later reversed to look right.

Today, at CPB it appears to be happening all over again. Only worse. With a Republican President and a Republican Congress, a partisan agenda is definitely in the works.

I think the town meetings across the country is a great idea. I also think that there should be Congressional hearings on this issue like was held back in the early 70's.

Ironically, back then, it was only public television that carried the Watergate hearings in prime time when most Americans could watch.

And, maybe it will only be public television that will carry the town meetings (without FBI restrictions) and the recommended congressional hearings.

I agree, let's put the "public" back in "public television."