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Public TV Would Do Fine Without Subsidy Con Funding Who Needs Public Broadcasting?

Fri., March 17, 1995

Big Bird and Barney wouldn’t be out of work if federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ended tomorrow.

“Sesame Street,” “Prairie Home Companion” and other popular publicly funded programs would survive in the commercial market - though fringe programming might not. Besides, who needs such public fare in this age of unlimited cable TV?

The federal government has no business subsidizing one network when commercial cable television offers similar and, in some cases, better cultural and children’s programs. It also shouldn’t underwrite programs that often promote liberal viewpoints while slighting conservative thought.

The late Francis Schaeffer once described how he was stonewalled when he asked public television to air his acclaimed film, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” After learning that the film opposed abortion, a program director snapped: “We can’t program anything that presents only one point of view.” At the same time, public TV was running a decidedly pro-choice program, “Hard Choices.”

Religious broadcasting stations such as Spokane’s KMBI don’t get federal subsidies to air pro-family positions. Public broadcasting shouldn’t get subsidies either.

The ruckus raised by House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s threat to end federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting typifies why this country is $5 trillion in debt. Self-promoting ads and emotional lobbying have misled the public into believing that the public system needs the subsidy to survive. That’s wrong. Federal support represents only 14 percent of the agency’s budget.

The agency could cover its losses by making fat cats such as the Children’s Television Workshop share profits from licensed merchandise. “Sesame Street,” for example, grosses $100 million from its products.

Shed no tears for Bert and Ernie. They will prosper - now that a cowed U.S. House of Representatives has voted to cut only 45 percent of funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting over the next two years rather than zeroing it out.

Rather, cry for our children who will face a mountain of debt because we couldn’t make tough fiscal decisions.


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