We don’t always agree with everything that Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina says. We like his conservative principles but sometimes think he’s a little dogged, in that compromise is necessary to accomplish much in Washington. But there’s one issue on which we’re in total agreement with DeMint: it’s time for public funding of the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio to end.
When Public Broadcasting was begun back in 1967, television was in its infancy. Viewers had little choice but to look at the offerings of the three major networks, and “ETV” indeed brought some quality offerings that couldn’t be found anywhere else. There were cultural and nature programs, travelogues and many other quality offerings that viewers could take advantage of. And South Carolina built one of the nation’s best public broadcasting systems. It was the same with radio. Back then, in what was largely an era of AM radio stations that had limited range and availability, National Public Radio was unique, a blend of stations that offered programs that couldn’t be found anywhere else on the radio airwaves.
But both television and radio have changed radically since then. With hundreds of specialty channels airing, viewers can tune in to any number of unique, challenging programs that weren’t available a generation ago. And with the advent of satellite radio, people here in Kershaw County can ride along the highway listening to anything their ears desire, from vintage music to national news to both conservative and liberal talk shows. There’s a veritable entertainment smorgasbord on both television and radio. Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio certainly have a niche, but they should stand on their own, without taxpayer assistance.
Congress appropriated $420 million for these entities last year. With the country facing massive deficits, this is a place where progress can be made. Those who listen to PBS and NPR already contribute most of the funding, along with corporate “sponsors,” though the broadcasters would never agree they do anything so crass as to have “commercials.” There also a huge amount of money raised through licensing and product sales of such things as Sesame Street merchandise. All those efforts can be stepped up to replace the funding that Joe Sixpack is providing.
Public broadcasting is paying private-type salaries to its executives. If they are indeed worth their money, they’ll come up with innovative ways to replace government funding. At that point, both its supporters and critics will be happy.