PBS Funding Threatened Again: What Does This Dance Tell Us?
Recently, I spent some time talking with an executive from a local PBS station about George W. Bush's latest attempt to cut funding for public broadcasting.
This time, Bush advanced a proposed budget cutting $200-million from 2009 funding levels and $220-million from 2010's budget (about 50 percent). The move brought a flurry of lobbying, as PBS executives from across the country flew into Washington D.C. to beg their legislators to do what they always do -- put the cash back in.
Indeed, this is a dance that reminds me of a phrase coined by Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Doing the Kabucki." Sometimes in politics, people feel the need to go through motions to advance their point of view, even when they will quite obviously never get what they're shooting for.
It's hard to see why Bush once again has tried to cut funding for PBS. It's not a move that's popular with voters; one reason why Congress has kept putting the money back -- even when Republicans had iron control of Congress -- is because most Americans want publicly funded radio and TV offerings. And now that the Democrats control Congress, it seem highly unlikely to be approved by the legislature (my suspicion: he's upset about the amount of PBS public affairs programming highly critical of his administration).
And when the New York Times lets some knucklehead try making the case that PBS isn't necessary, a flood of reader letters reminding folks of all the quality, non-flashy programming offered by PBS, NPR and local stations comes pouring in.
I mean, at a time when the government admits $8-billion in cash has just disappeared in Iraq, does it really make sense to quibble about $400-million spent over two years or the home of Sesame Street, Nature, Masterpiece Theater, Antiques Roadshow, Washington Week, Fresh Air, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, Frontline and Florida This Week?