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'Thousands of Choices' And Not One to be Found
March 6, 2011  | By Tom Brinkmoeller
[In which, after a senate bill is introduced justifying the end of government funding for public broadcasting because there are "thousands of choices" for educational offerings otherwise available, our intrepid correspondent asks for a representative list... - DB] 

Sesame-Street-Google-Images.jpgOn March 4, two Republican U.S. senators introduced legislation that isn't that unique in the Washington, D.C., that exists today. Their bill would end all government funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the same idea that has longer roots in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The rationale put forward by Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Sen Tom Coburn (Okla.) should sail through conservative quarters with a collective nod. But it deserves some exposure among people who appreciate high-quality television, and who aren't afraid to question or challenge flawed arguments.

This is from the news release offered by Sen. DeMint's office:

"Our nation is on the edge of bankruptcy and Congress must make some tough choices to rein in spending, but ending taxpayer subsidies of public broadcasting should be an easy decision," said Sen. DeMint. "Americans struggling to make ends meet shouldn't be forced to fund public broadcasting when there are already thousands of choices for educational and entertainment programming on the television, radio and web."

Setting aside that the public money given to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting helps to partly fund only public radio and television, and Web offerings hold little relevance in this argument, one would have to stretch awfully far to find the "thousands of choices" now existing on commercial radio and television stations.

The "thousands" number is linked to "educational and entertainment programming." Commercial radio and television are entertainment. Finding more than a few programs they offer that could be labeled "educational" is difficult.

I found it impossible. So I called Wesley Denton, a press aide to Sen. DeMint, to ask for help. Had the senator told him some of those programs referred to in the press release?

"I'm sure you can think of many examples of the kinds of shows you're asking about," Denton said.

No, that's why I'm calling, was my response. Please help me.

"You're not aware of these programs?"


He said equivalents of Sesame Street and Curious George abound on commercial television. I must know what they are.

No, I replied. Could he please give an example?

"That's a silly question that answers itself," he said, and the conversation soon ended.

If those hunting the heads of public broadcasters want to build momentum, they'd better do so with real facts, not baseless ones they don't even try to explain or defend when asked about them.

There is a long history of empty statements emanating from the U.S. Capitol. But ones that attempt to link South Park to Sesame Street, or Cake Boss to America's Test Kitchen, deserve some sort of award in the category.

As it is, some of them are trying to gut the soul of America with a coal shovel. Not only is the process unnecessary -- it's clumsy, dirty and patently stupid.




Judi Stillwell said:

Right on!

Comment posted on March 7, 2011 12:18 PM

Davey said:

Of course it's patently stupid -- consider the source. The very last thing these teabagging flimflam artists want to see is anything "educational" reaching the public. It's hard for lies to work when the facts are out there interfering with the oligarchy's propaganda. So we don't want no public media competing with the holy truth of Fox News.

Comment posted on March 7, 2011 3:14 PM

Susan said:

I think that another key question to ask is where are those "equivalent educational" shows? On broadcast, or on cable? I know that I cannot afford cable on my budget, and I don't consider myself "low-income." PBS Childrens' programming is able to reach those children who need it the most.

Comment posted on March 7, 2011 7:21 PM

Angela said:

Thank you for writing this. I don't have kids, and probably never will, but this makes me so angry!

I read that we are paying 1/10 of one cent on every dollar to help fund Nasa. I would love to know how much money we're talking about here, because I doubt it's as much as Nasa. And even if it is, I don't feel like I'm being "forced" to fund PBS. It's something I very much want to do.

Comment posted on March 7, 2011 8:18 PM

Grassy Noel Holston said:

Nicely done, Tom. I'm going to write DeMint a letter and press again for examples. The aide's brush off of you was -- how should I put this? -- incriminating. Next they'll be going after public library funding because so many of them have liberal books on the shelves.
The thing is, even after decades of right-wingers trying to cripple and/or destroy it, PBS still offers children's, science, nature and cultural programming that no cable channel truly matches. To lose it would be a national disgrace.

Comment posted on March 9, 2011 12:16 PM
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