PBS funding restored, but other concerns remain. The NY Times’ article by Lorne Manly on “Public Broadcasters’ Tightrope Over Funds” demonstrates the problem. The PBS managers are trying to do more outreach to get help and money, but that only gets more ire:
But the lobbying effort has been criticized. “What bothers me is they’re using my tax dollars to lobby the Congress to get more of my tax dollars,” said David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization, and a guest on Mr. [Brian] Lehrer’s [WNYC/PBS radio] program on Monday.
Mr. Boaz, a regular listener to public radio, said he believed in the separation of news and state. “The government shouldn’t be putting its thumb on the scales in the marketplace of ideas,” he continued, adding that public broadcasters could withstand the loss of money that represents about 15 percent of their revenues.
Public broadcasting executives defended their outreach efforts, arguing that they are allowed, within certain restrictions, to broadcast spots that support federal financing. And with a vote looming in the House, they did not have the luxury of waiting until the cut becomes reality.
“If we did not tell our members and the funding quietly slipped by, they’d never forgive us,” said John Lawson, president and chief executive of the public television lobbying group.
In addition, they said they are merely laying out the facts for their viewers and listeners to digest. “We are asking them to express their opinions, whatever that may be, but not telling them what to think,” Ms. Walker said.
Placing these spots near news segments about the controversy can raise journalistic questions about blurring the line between news and promotion. Tim Eby, radio manager of WOSU and chairman of NPR’s board, said the station’s on-air people have made sure the spots don’t run during any locally produced segments about the controversy.
So, there’s the concern about the appearance of conflict of interest in PBS journalism (which is usually very solid, but when you’re trying to defend the very concept of PBS, PBS journalism looks like it’s on the defensive, when, just before Lehrer (Brian on radio or Jim on tv) interviews someone, there’s that Save PBS promotion on the air. I didn’t really agree with that libertarian guy referred above – I mean, really, the Constitution talks about separation between religion and state; a division between news and state is something else. It’s not like government funding for PBS makes PBS the government’s propaganda tool or that the government is endorsing a particular network (especially when the current administration is all but accusing PBS of having “liberal” bias). If anything, government funding of PBS (pretty minor stuff as it is, compared to, say, paying for military or Social Security) encourages and maintains free speech in the marketplace of ideas: so long as there is PBS, we don’t have to be the captive audience of the greedy (-ier?) network broadcasters and the cable networks.
But, the lobbying efforts do bother me as a viewer in one sense – I tend to turn to PBS as the commercial free tv. But, increasingly, it obviously isn’t, when you have to sit through “Thanks for our supporters and grant providers from Chipotle, Coca-Cola, and Sprint.” Not easy times for PBS.
And, continuing my topic here on tv stuff, I thought this Alessandra Stanley evaluation of the now-notorious Tom Cruise appearance on yesterday’s Today show is interesting. Yeah, so Cruise is looking a little unhinged, but is terribly honest. Stanley says it’s refreshing. She also makes a point – Cruise is making it obvious that the talk show host/interviewers aren’t exactly the smartest bunch – I mean, really, it’s just Matt Lauer asking silly questions. But, to me, is it that worth it to make Matt Lauer look really dim-witted and to kick dirt at the science of psychiatry (which helps people, even if someone like Cruise doesn’t think so)? I wasn’t planning on watching the Cruise/Speilberg “War of the Worlds” in the first place (not my kind of movie – looks too scary, and I never liked the concept of it in the first place – begging pardon to H.G. Wells). But, this publicity for Cruise – well, I just don’t know how much it helps him. He’s going to have to hope that the audience is able to separate Cruise the Actor from Cruise the Man and that the Man doesn’t end up driving away the Actor’s audience.
Oh, and my silly joke – since Katie Holmes (ex-Joey of “Dawson’s Creek”) can’t let go of Cruise, I do so very much wonder, when will old Dawson and Pacey rescue Joey from the strange older man? … 😉