There are bad ideas, and then there are really bad ideas.
Government-funded national media resides in the realm of really bad ideas. Make no mistake, this is precisely what NPR and PBS are — government-funded media, an idea totally inimical to the founders’ concept in the First Amendment of a free and unfettered media.
President Trump is dead-on in wanting to defund this, as are many conservatives.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was formed in 1967, embedded in the Great Society years that have proven so disastrous on so many levels — from locking in generational poverty to facilitating the disintegration of the family to diminishing labor participation rates.
A side note to the terrible Great Society ideas was the creation of public radio and television. Because in addition to the federal government becoming a nanny to every American’s needs and desires, government also decided they knew best what types of media were essential for Americans to consume. No, Americans could not possibly choose this appropriately on their own.
Who knows what sort of disdainful, low-brow choices they would make? Elvis Presley and the The Beatles? Paintings that don’t look like something a five-year-old spilled? National Review? Rush Limbaugh? No thank you. The federal government could not possibly allow that to be their only intake. They would ensure that all Americans could listen to — and be forced to pay for — classical and jazz music, plus the endless ultra progressive prattling of the news side.
Public media thinks very highly of themselves
As befitting the high-brows they are, the CPB see themselves as essential to the betterment of every American. Here is how the organization describes their mission:
“Public media creates and distributes content that is for, by and about Americans of all diverse backgrounds; and services that foster dialogue between the American people and the stations that serve them. In addition to providing free high-quality, educational programming for children, arts, and award winning current affairs programming, public media stations provide life-saving emergency alert services.”
There are so many problems with that single paragraph, and they all point to the operational blinders on the CPB.
- “…for, by and about Americans of all diverse backgrounds;” This is not true, but it does mimic the mainstream media and progressive penchant for thinking that people who look different create diversity even if they all think alike. I’ve never met a public broadcast news person who was not liberal. Oh sure progressives consider a black liberal, a white liberal, an Hispanic liberal, a gay liberal and a female liberal a rainbow of diversity. But when one is producing news content, the outcome is essentially no difference among them.
- “…services that foster dialogue between the American people and the stations that serve them.” Not true again. I know few conservatives who interact with public broadcast, for reasons ranging from philosophic opposition to government-funded media to frustration with their worldview being under constant fire with their own tax dollars. The dialogue, such as there is, is among the center to left who imbibe the doctrine and like music not popular in the broader culture.
- “In addition to providing free high-quality, educational programming for children, arts, and award winning current affairs programming…” I think we’ve already established it is not “free.” It is just befuddling how the liberal mind thinks that if government provides something, it is magically free. To understand how “award-winning” journalism works to only benefit the liberal progressive worldview, please read this.
- “…public media stations provide life-saving emergency alert services.” Okay, so technology has just passed this one by. It’s like saying they provide buggy whips. Not a strong selling point.
This government-funded media reaches more than 98 percent of the U.S. population. That means it has far more reach than any independent news organizations, and maybe as much as all of them put together. Not good.
But, but Big Bird! The arts!
A common misunderstanding used in defense of this bad idea is that it provides such popular programs as Sesame Street. This has long been just a silly argument as Sesame Street is hugely popular — so much so that it actually is first-run now on the HBO premium channel before being re-run on PBS.
But the truth of the matter is that the loss of public funding will not kill any of these PBS stations. In fact, it’s probably totally unnecessary in the age of high-speed internet and unlimited data plans on smart phones.
Most of the federal funding for these entities supports the distribution network of 1,400 radio and television stations and only a small — and now superfluous — amount goes to support programming.
Actual public programming, such as Sesame Street, Frontline, Fresh Air, All Things Considered and others would in no way be affected by cutting federal funding because they are popular. They would continue on and be profitable — as evidenced by HBO buying first-run rights to Sesame Street.
So when you see hashtags such as #SaveBigBird, you’re seeing a display either of ignorance or a dishonest appeal to emotions. Big Bird, Elmo and the rest will thrive without any federal money. In fact, it is likely driving a ton of cash into PBS.
During an ABC panel I was on, a consistent argument for saving taxpayer-funding of public radio and television is that it supports “the arts” and provides at least audio arts opportunities that would not otherwise be available in rural areas with small, spread-out populations.
You could make that argument before — although the government doing it would still be a huge obstacle — but not now. I held up my iPhone and said all those options and many, many more, are available through Spotify, Pandora and other apps via streaming.
If proponents really wanted to give rural and poor people a wider variety of musical arts opportunities, they should probably argue for grants to Spotify and others where listeners can be exposed to literally hundreds of times more options than whatever is playing on NPR that afternoon. I would oppose such funding, but at least it makes more sense than the 1960s model now being used.
A media love affair
In briefly researching Trump’s proposal to eliminate government funding of one media source, every media outlet I saw opined on the “need” for public broadcasting: The Washington Post, Newsweek, CBS News, The Hill, Vox, and so on. Those just showed up near the top of a Google search.
It is a universal truth in the mainstream media — which is to say that it is a universal truth of modern American liberalism — that government-funded media is essential to the welfare of Americans. It’s hard to get past the “government knows best” specter of this.
But then, that goes to a core of the liberal progressive mindset: government can and should do more and more things to improve our personal lives.
Vox does yeoman’s work trying to portray how mean Trump is by playing the rural card and the now common canard that Trump keeps doing things that hurt his own voters.
The digital media outlet wrote that Trump’s “proposed defunding of CPB is yet another way that a policy proposed by Trump seems as if it will have the most adverse effect on those who voted for him.” That’s because a lot of federal funding goes to pay for PBS and NPR programming in rural areas. While major metro areas may make up lost tax revenues through donations and grants from foundations, rural areas may lose their “beloved” government-funded stations.
But is that because they are poorer and donate less? Remember, the costs of running the stations in uncongested low-cost rural areas is also considerably cheaper than in major metro areas. Or is it because the high-brow snobbery generated on a lot of the stations just isn’t that popular in rural America and those people have no interest in supporting it — or the adjoining liberalism of the news side?
PBS and NPR are not going anywhere as entities. They have enough programming that enough people like that they are viable without federal funds. But without taxpayer funds is exactly what they should be, because there is no place for government-funded media in the United States.
We cannot defund this bad idea soon enough.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Revolutionary Act.