Thursday, May 05, 2005

Partisan Takeover at PBS

CPB chairman Kenneth Tomlinson is trying to correct the "liberal bias" at PBS, which actually means he doesn't want shows with a liberal bent at all, since PBS has always had conservative shows on:

By right-wing arithmetic, Mr. Moyers alone outweighs the copious conservative programming that has graced PBS for nearly four decades, dating back to William F. Buckley's inaugural broadcast of Firing Line in 1966.

Indeed, the list of conservative and corporate-oriented shows aired on PBS over the ensuing years is quite impressive, including The McLaughlin Group, Peggy Noonan on Values, Ben Wattenberg's Think Tank, Adam Smith's Money World, Wall Street Week, National Desk featuring Laura Ingraham, Fred Barnes and Larry Elder, and Tucker Carlson's Unfiltered.

I have a very warm spot in my heart for public television. For seven years, I lived in an area where we couldn't get cable, given the choice of only two (later three) other channels, we watched PBS from Sesame Street (when our kids were little) in the morning to Masterpiece Theatre at night. Only in select instances did the networks lure us away from PBS. Strangely enough, Jim used to complain of "liberal bias" on the station, too -- but it was usually in the context of particular programs. And he watched the shows, bias or no. In recent years, I've even taken phone calls during the pledge drive. (You know, half the calls you get aren't to offer pledges -- they are either to complain about the pledge drive, or changes in programming, or crank calls.)

When right-wingers call for "balance", what they really mean is that they don't want liberals to have a voice at all -- whether it's in the classroom, or on television. In fact, conservatives used to call for the complete dismantling of public television, in part because of its supposed bias, but mostly out of the general principle that it's not the government's business to fund television programs. As I've said before, conservatism has become something very different than it was when I was conservative -- it used to be about freedom, and getting the government out of our lives. (And, if you haven't noticed, I'm still a strong civil libertarian.) Now, it seems to be all about imposing a right-wing form of political correctness on everybody else. Never, at my most conservative, would it have occurred to me to interfere with the other side's freedom of expression. In fact, this whole incident rather strengthens the old style conservative idea that "he who pays the piper calls the tune" i.e, if the government funds something, then they'll get to call the shots.

But while real conservatives don't think that government should call the shots in the realm of ideas, the new breed seems to have no problem at all with it. If anybody wonders why I've drifted towards the left in recent years, there's one reason.

If you'd like to sign a petition protesting this development, and calling for Tomlinson's resignation, you can go here.

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