Why Should The Government Fund PBS and NPR?

Kudos to Mitt Romney. He got everyone talking about Sesame Street for a bit. At last week’s debate, Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer that he would eliminate federal spending on public television and radio. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you too,” he joked. “But I’m not going keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

As many liberals were quick to retort, this isn’t a particularly bold plan to cut the federal deficit. Public television and radio stations like PBS and NPR got just $445 million from the government in 2012—or about 0.014 percent of the federal budget. If Romney is intent on cutting spending, he’ll need bigger and better examples. Read the entire story at Washington Post.

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One thought on “Why Should The Government Fund PBS and NPR?

  1. Romney telling Lehrer a not-so-good example of a fiscal solution can still be a good sideline topic. I love both PBS an NPR ever since I was very little. It gave me a more level-headed form of education and entertainment that only few other networks offed (National Geographic, Discovery, etc). But as a matter of principle, should the government pay for it?

    Good news is that government actually doesn’t pay for all of it and that “viewers like you” and subsidiaries pay for a large portion of the bill. It’s because of PBS’s make-up. From my understanding, PBS stations are operated not just by state agencies and local authorities (i.e. municipal boards of education), but also non-profits and universities. Government funding may fund the former two, but not the latter two. This means it could be possible state agencies and local authorities can devolve NPR operations to non-corporate actors, thereby shrinking the size of government (a tad bit in this case) while providing alternative broadcasting that many like myself enjoy (the only real journalism seems to come from PBS nowadays).

    However, there may be two reasons why government is justified funding PBS. The first is a little more complex than the second, in that journalism (The Fourth Estate) is an important ingredient to any viable democracy and concerns of corporate control of the Fourth Estate is believed by many, including myself, to be a major conflict of interest. The bottom line of shareholders does not align with the bottom line of accurately informing the public (what if the information is deemed harmful to the interest of the shareholders? issues of “infotainment,” enforced political polarization, etc). Try circling that square, you’d be hard pressed. The other reason is that PBS is considered by Roper polls to be one of America’s most trusted national institution. Although ratings might not show it, a national referendum might just support government funding for PBS. But this is just an inference.

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