Public Broadcasting

August 24, 1999

Congress stands ready to continue funding public broadcasting. In fact, the House subcommittee has proposed increasing government funding. Frankly, I wish Congress would look at the facts on the table and make a different choice.

When Lyndon Johnson created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967, the argument for public broadcasting was somewhat compelling. Major networks competing for viewers produced programs that appealed to broad least-common-denominator audiences. Public broadcasting was necessary to provide an alternative. As columnist George Will said recently, ďThe rationale for public broadcasting was marvelously sealed against refutation: The government must subsidize alternative programming precisely because few people want it.Ē

That refutation still holds even though we now find ourselves in a 500-channel media storm. We need public broadcasting because few people want it. The latest PBS slogan is: ďIf PBS doesnít do it, who will?Ē Well, I can think of a number of networks: CNN, Discovery, the History Channel, Arts and Entertainment, Nickelodeon. But, of course, thatís not the point. Public broadcasting since its inception has a veto-proof rationale.

By the way, there is a difference between these networks. Other television networks provide quality programming and pay taxes. PBS provides quality programming and consumes taxes.

The most-used argument for public broadcasting is concern for the kids. What would happen to Sesame Street and other such shows? Well, I think Big Bird and Barney would do just fine without government subsidy, as evidenced by their profitable paraphernalia sold in stores every day.

Public broadcasting only receives 15 percent of its funds from government anyway. So the impact could be minor if government began to scale back its contributions.

But Congress shows no such inclination. Public broadcasting will continue precisely because few people want it. Itís strange logic, but it keeps PBS funded.

Iím Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and thatís my opinion.

© 1999 Probe Ministries International