Public Broadcasting: Time for More Pledge Drives

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Public Broadcasting: Time for More Pledge Drives

[cap­tion id=“attachment_96182” align=“alignnone” width=“1056”] Sesame Street has broad­cast bru­tal par­o­dies of Don­ald Trump over the past 40 years.[/caption]

NPR and PBS are the media out­lets lib­er­als love to love.

For exam­ple, a Pew research study in 2014 found that lib­er­als rate both the news pro­grams on these out­lets as the best in the busi­ness. NPR and PBS don’t even make the lists for conservatives.

Why is there such a dif­fer­ence? The Amer­i­can Prospect had this to say about NPR and PBS: “They’re care­ful, rea­soned, polite, cos­mopoli­tan, seri­ous with the occa­sional touch of whimsy — in short, every­thing lib­er­als either are or imag­ine them­selves to be. And every­one at NPR seems so nice — how could you not trust them? So lib­er­als do, and most of them listen.”

Sim­ply put, NPR and PBS are the safe zone media if you are a lib­eral. They also make lib­er­als feel smart. That’s why the news media — staffed largely by lib­er­als — are so opposed to the elim­i­na­tion of fund­ing for NPR and PBS in the Trump budget.

The argu­ment stresses that $600 mil­lion is such a small part of the over­all bud­get. That’s more than half a bil­lion dol­lars the two orga­ni­za­tions’ out­put! As the old barb goes: a bil­lion here, a bil­lion there, and pretty soon you’re talk­ing about real money.

Even a mem­ber of the board of CPB, which funds pub­lic broad­cast­ing, says that the orga­ni­za­tions have strayed from their ini­tial goals.

In a col­umn in The Wash­ing­ton Post, Howard Husock writes, “If pub­lic broad­cast­ers con­tinue to receive fed­eral sup­port, they must start appeal­ing to more than just blue-​state Amer­ica. They should revisit and expand the mean­ing of diver­sity to include more ide­o­log­i­cal and geo­graphic perspectives.”

It’s worth not­ing that the pro­gram referred to Trump as “Grump” over sev­eral decades in what even The Wash­ing­ton Post callssur­pris­ingly vicious take­downs of Don­ald Trump.” For more details, see https://​www​.wash​ing​ton​post​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​a​r​t​s​-​a​n​d​-​e​n​t​e​r​t​a​i​n​m​e​n​t​/​w​p​/​2017​/​03​/​20​/​t​r​u​m​p​-​w​a​n​t​s​-​t​o​-​d​e​f​u​n​d​-​p​b​s​-​s​e​s​a​m​e​-​s​t​r​e​e​t​-​b​r​u​t​a​l​l​y​-​p​a​r​o​d​i​e​d​-​h​i​m​-​f​o​r​-​d​e​c​ades/ It’s one thing to make fun of the pres­i­dent on Sat­ur­day Night Live! It’s entirely dif­fer­ent for a pub­licly funded “kids” show.

Amaz­ingly, Sesame Street appar­ently has no street smarts or busi­ness sense. It makes $150 mil­lion a year in sell­ing stuff and licens­ing fees, but it usu­ally oper­ates at a loss.

Other con­tent at PBS gen­er­ally has reflected a liberal-​to-​left polit­i­cal slant ever since the network’s incep­tion. As the Cap­i­tal Research Cen­ter reports, “most PBS news pro­grams are lit­tle more than left-​wing agit­prop”; PBS’s “flag­ship pub­lic affairs series, Front­line, typ­i­cally focuses on “cor­po­rate malfea­sance” and “polit­i­cal intrigue”; the “human-​interest sto­ries on Inde­pen­dent Lens and P.O.V. are polit­i­cally cor­rect lamen­ta­tions on social oppres­sion or cel­e­bra­tions of ‘diver­sity’”; the sci­ence pro­gram Nova “fre­quently bemoans man’s destruc­tive inter­fer­ence with nature”; and the series NOW, hosted by David Bran­cac­cio, “is ded­i­cated to blam­ing cor­po­rate Amer­ica for every cri­sis and tar­get­ing politi­cians and big media for every cover-​up.

Bill Moy­ers, the for­mer LBJ spokesman, was a promi­nent host and pro­ducer of var­i­ous PBS pro­grams from 1970 through his retire­ment in 2004. Toward the end of Moy­ers’ career, approx­i­mately 30 PBS affil­i­ates stopped air­ing his par­ti­san show NOW, which he hosted before David Bran­cac­cio, dur­ing the network’s pledge dri­ves, partly out of fear that the program’s bias would alien­ate poten­tial donors. NOW had also become an eth­i­cal embar­rass­ment because Moy­ers, with­out inform­ing his audi­ence, had used his taxpayer-​subsidized show to pro­mote guests from at least 16 left­ist orga­ni­za­tions that had received some $4.8 mil­lion in grants from the Schu­mann Cen­ter, which he heads.

PBS’s polit­i­cal bias has been evi­dent in many of its high-​profile, spe­cial pro­duc­tions over the years. The 2001 doc­u­men­tary Ene­mies of War, for instance, recounts the 1980s civil war in El Sal­vador. While den­i­grat­ing the elected anti-​Communist Sal­vado­ran gov­ern­ment that was backed by the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion and was fight­ing against Marx­ist ter­ror­ists from neigh­bor­ing Nicaragua, the film lauds the efforts of those who “halted U.S. involve­ment” in the region and thereby helped El Sal­vador “generat[e] peace instead of war.”

In 2005, PBS broad­cast the three-​hour doc­u­men­tary series Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Social­ism. A PBS syn­op­sis of this pro­duc­tion described social­ism as “the vision that life could be lived in peace and broth­er­hood if only prop­erty were shared by all and dis­trib­uted equally, elim­i­nat­ing the source of greed, envy, poverty and strife.”

Other notable, polit­i­cally charged pro­grams which PBS has aired include:

Alca­traz Is Not an Island, about the 1969 takeover and occu­pa­tion of Alca­traz by Native Amer­i­can activists

Affluenza, which explores “the high social and envi­ron­men­tal costs of mate­ri­al­ism and over-​consumption”

The Good War and Those Who Refused To Fight It, about con­sci­en­tious objec­tors who chose not to take part in com­bat dur­ing World War II

Islam: Empire of Faith, a pro­duc­tion that white­washes the more vio­lent and intol­er­ant aspects of the Mus­lim faith.

In April 2007, PBS shelved a doc­u­men­tary titled Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Mus­lim Cen­ter, which exam­ines how mod­er­ate Amer­i­can Mus­lims have strug­gled to resist Islamic mil­i­tancy. Frank Gaffney, Jr., co-​producer of the film and pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Secu­rity Pol­icy, asserts that PBS sup­pressed the film because its blunt­ness did not advance the network’s mul­ti­cul­tural agenda which called for pro­gram­ming that was “more flat­ter­ing to the Islamists.”

In a recent speech, Ken Burns, one of the most promi­nent fix­tures of PBS, gave this descrip­tion of Don­ald Trump:

’…a per­son who eas­ily lies, cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment where the truth doesn’t seem to mat­ter; who has never demon­strated any inter­est in any­one or any­thing but him­self and his own enrich­ment; who insults vet­er­ans, threat­ens a free press, mocks the hand­i­capped, den­i­grates women, immi­grants and all Mus­lims; a man who took more than a day to remem­ber to dis­avow a sup­porter who advo­cates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infan­tile, bul­ly­ing man who, depend­ing on his mood, is will­ing to dis­card old and estab­lished alliances, treaties and long-​standing rela­tion­ships. I feel gen­uine sor­row for the under­stand­ably scared and — they feel — pow­er­less peo­ple who have flocked to his cam­paign in the mis­taken belief that — as often hap­pens on TV — a wand can be waved and every com­pli­cated prob­lem can be solved with the sim­plest of solu­tions. They can’t. It is a polit­i­cal Ponzi scheme. And ask­ing this man to assume the high­est office in the land would be like ask­ing a newly minted car dri­ver to fly a 747.”

PBS also has a lot of left­ist finan­cial back­ers. The Park Foun­da­tion, for exam­ple, is a major fun­der of Burns and PBS. The foun­da­tion is headed by Ade­laide Gomer, who has given money to a vari­ety of left­ist causes such an anti-​fracking groups. She also got me ousted from my job as the Roy Park Dis­tin­guished Chair at Ithaca Col­lege — an hon­orary chair named for her late father — because of my con­ser­v­a­tive views.

I don’t lis­ten to NPR. I don’t watch PBS. I don’t want to pay any­thing for either. I know a lot of peo­ple who think the same way I do. If the cost of pub­lic broad­cast­ing is so rel­a­tively cheap in the grand scheme of things, accord­ing to its sup­port­ers, let those who use the net­works pay for them.


Christo­pher Harper teaches media law.

Sesame Street has broadcast brutal parodies of Donald Trump over the past 40 years.

NPR and PBS are the media outlets liberals love to love.

For example, a Pew research study in 2014 found that liberals rate both the news programs on these outlets as the best in the business. NPR and PBS don’t even make the lists for conservatives.

Why is there such a difference? The American Prospect had this to say about NPR and PBS: “They’re careful, reasoned, polite, cosmopolitan, serious with the occasional touch of whimsy—in short, everything liberals either are or imagine themselves to be. And everyone at NPR seems so nice—how could you not trust them? So liberals do, and most of them listen.”

Simply put, NPR and PBS are the safe zone media if you are a liberal. They also make liberals feel smart. That’s why the news media—staffed largely by liberals—are so opposed to the elimination of funding for NPR and PBS in the Trump budget.

The argument stresses that $600 million is such a small part of the overall budget. That’s more than half a billion dollars the two organizations’ output! As the old barb goes: a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

Even a member of the board of CPB, which funds public broadcasting, says that the organizations have strayed from their initial goals.

In a column in The Washington Post, Howard Husock writes, “If public broadcasters continue to receive federal support, they must start appealing to more than just blue-state America. They should revisit and expand the meaning of diversity to include more ideological and geographic perspectives.”

It’s worth noting that the program referred to Trump as “Grump” over several decades in what even The Washington Post calls “surprisingly vicious takedowns of Donald Trump.” For more details, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/03/20/trump-wants-to-defund-pbs-sesame-street-brutally-parodied-him-for-decades/ It’s one thing to make fun of the president on Saturday Night Live! It’s entirely different for a publicly funded “kids” show.

Amazingly, Sesame Street apparently has no street smarts or business sense. It makes $150 million a year in selling stuff and licensing fees, but it usually operates at a loss.

Other content at PBS generally has reflected a liberal-to-left political slant ever since the network’s inception. As the Capital Research Center reports, “most PBS news programs are little more than left-wing agitprop”; PBS’s “flagship public affairs series, Frontline, typically focuses on “corporate malfeasance” and “political intrigue”; the “human-interest stories on Independent Lens and P.O.V. are politically correct lamentations on social oppression or celebrations of ‘diversity’”; the science program Nova “frequently bemoans man’s destructive interference with nature”; and the series NOW, hosted by David Brancaccio, “is dedicated to blaming corporate America for every crisis and targeting politicians and big media for every cover-up.

Bill Moyers, the former LBJ spokesman, was a prominent host and producer of various PBS programs from 1970 through his retirement in 2004. Toward the end of Moyers’ career, approximately 30 PBS affiliates stopped airing his partisan show NOW, which he hosted before David Brancaccio, during the network’s pledge drives, partly out of fear that the program’s bias would alienate potential donors. NOW had also become an ethical embarrassment because Moyers, without informing his audience, had used his taxpayer-subsidized show to promote guests from at least 16 leftist organizations that had received some $4.8 million in grants from the Schumann Center, which he heads.

PBS’s political bias has been evident in many of its high-profile, special productions over the years. The 2001 documentary Enemies of War, for instance, recounts the 1980s civil war in El Salvador. While denigrating the elected anti-Communist Salvadoran government that was backed by the Reagan administration and was fighting against Marxist terrorists from neighboring Nicaragua, the film lauds the efforts of those who “halted U.S. involvement” in the region and thereby helped El Salvador “generat[e] peace instead of war.”

In 2005, PBS broadcast the three-hour documentary series Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. A PBS synopsis of this production described socialism as “the vision that life could be lived in peace and brotherhood if only property were shared by all and distributed equally, eliminating the source of greed, envy, poverty and strife.”

Other notable, politically charged programs which PBS has aired include:

Alcatraz Is Not an Island, about the 1969 takeover and occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists

Affluenza, which explores “the high social and environmental costs of materialism and over-consumption”

The Good War and Those Who Refused To Fight It, about conscientious objectors who chose not to take part in combat during World War II

Islam: Empire of Faith, a production that whitewashes the more violent and intolerant aspects of the Muslim faith.

In April 2007, PBS shelved a documentary titled Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center, which examines how moderate American Muslims have struggled to resist Islamic militancy. Frank Gaffney, Jr., co-producer of the film and president of the Center for Security Policy, asserts that PBS suppressed the film because its bluntness did not advance the network’s multicultural agenda which called for programming that was “more flattering to the Islamists.”

In a recent speech, Ken Burns, one of the most prominent fixtures of PBS, gave this description of Donald Trump:

‘’…a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and — they feel — powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that — as often happens on TV — a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.”

PBS also has a lot of leftist financial backers. The Park Foundation, for example, is a major funder of Burns and PBS. The foundation is headed by Adelaide Gomer, who has given money to a variety of leftist causes such an anti-fracking groups. She also got me ousted from my job as the Roy Park Distinguished Chair at Ithaca College—an honorary chair named for her late father—because of my conservative views.

I don’t listen to NPR. I don’t watch PBS. I don’t want to pay anything for either. I know a lot of people who think the same way I do. If the cost of public broadcasting is so relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things, according to its supporters, let those who use the networks pay for them.


Christopher Harper teaches media law.