Since Gov. Mitt Romney promised during the first presidential debate “to stop the subsidy to PBS,” a remarkable thing has happened: Americans, by the millions, have taken to social media to say, “Not so fast.”
This spontaneous outpouring of support for public television confirms what public opinion research has suggested for years. The American people, all across the political spectrum, greatly value the work of public service media, both nationally and in our communities, and they believe federal support for this work is one of the best investments our government can make.
Let’s be honest. This call to defund PBS has nothing to do with money. PBS receives $1.35 per taxpayer per year — totaling one one-hundredth of the federal budget, roughly the cost of one B-1 bomber. This is taxpayer money, not “money borrowed from the Chinese,” as candidate Romney suggests. Such an infinitesimally small amount has virtually no budget impact.
Our nation’s budget challenges have provided congressional ideologues with the cover they need to try to eliminate a media voice they don’t like. This misperception that PBS is biased or slanted to one side of the political aisle or the other — usually to the left — is at the heart of this call to defund.
And a misperception it is. Let’s think it through. Does “Antiques Roadshow” appraise only vases brought by liberal people? Does “This Old House” remodel only homes in blue states? Does “American Experience” profile only Democratic presidents? Has Ken Burns slanted his story of the Civil War? I think not.
On a local level, does KNPB News Director Brent Boynton ever reveal, much less advocate, for his position on any issue or story? Does KNPB check the political affiliation of the high school student athletes whose championship games we broadcast? You and I know we don’t. And those who want to defund PBS know it, too.
The reason some believe we are one-sided is they simply parrot what others have said. Some do not like the fact that PBS presents both or all sides of an issue — they don’t want the “other” side to have a say. Others are offended by a view other than their own. The fact that we have a broadcast media service dedicated to serving all of us, presenting facts that allow each of us to make up our own minds, is of inestimable value. Certainly, it’s worth more than $1.35 per year.
Let’s not trivialize the serious national budget discussion by playing ideological games with funding for public television. The service that helped us learn our letters and numbers with “Sesame Street,” whose icon Mr. Rogers made us feel loved, who has taken us to the farthest reaches of outer space on “NOVA” and who tells important local stories that no one else will has clearly earned a safe, secure place in our nation’s budget.
It’s heartening that in our polarized political environment, there’s one thing that just about everybody can agree on: Federal funding for public television is a good thing, well worth preserving.
Kurt Mische is president and CEO of KNPB.Back to Pressroom