Tuesday, May 3, 2005

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Yesterday, I followed an AOL link to this New York Times article-- GOP Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases. Why are the most important essays on the most frightening right-wing power plays relegated to some minor headline or back page? Oh, excuse me…whatever made me ask that question? Given the conservative strangle-hold on information these days, I should be shocked that the article ever even made it to the Welcome Screen.

The article provides a blow-by-blow account of conservative (read Republican) efforts to eliminate the liberal bias that is supposedly poisoning Public Television. They will accomplish this by packing the upper echelons of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with right-wing sympathizers, including a White House staff member who was contracted to write new guidelines for judging the content of PBS broadcasts, and a former head of the RNC. A plan is being enacted to appoint ombudsmen to oversee the content of PBS shows. And, apparently, the search is on to find appropriate conservative-leaning programming to "counteract" the supposed liberal bias that currently exists at the network. Overrun the field with members of your own team, change the rules, and fill the airwaves with your own story as if it was gospel. Sounds like the typical Republican agenda.

I would like to believe that the actions of conservative CPB board chairman Kenneth Tomlinson are simply a matter of economics. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. Washington is currently in the grips of the right wing, and Congress provides PBS funding. Would that his turning of the screws on PBS programming was motivated purely by the need to appear attractive to the guys who hold the purse strings. But I can’t help but believe there’s more going on here than that. Yes, Tomlinson was originally a Clinton Administration appointee to the CPB board. (It’s unfortunate that the Democrats’ inclusive politics often come back to bite them in the behind.) But Tomlinson hit the jackpot with the advent of the Bush Administration. What kind of bartering went on in the back room when he was offered the CPB chairmanship in 2003? What agenda did the administration place before him in exchange for the appointment? So much of the current right-wing success has been created by their ability to control the media. It would stretch credibility to believe that the Republican administration would miss an opportunity to bring Public Broadcasting to heel.

I’m not a huge consumer of Public Television. I watch "Antiques Road Show" and documentaries from time to time. During the horrendous hype leading up to last year’s presidential election, The News with Jim Lehrer was the only TV news broadcast I could stand to watch. It carried a somewhat mature treatment of national events, so I didn’t feel like tearing my hair out by the roots or throwing some heavy object through the television screen during the broadcast. I am, however, a devout fan of Public Radio. And, according to the New York Times article, I have the greasy fortune of the Kroc family to thank for giving NPR a modicum of financial independence that will keep it safe from a right-wing occupation…for the time being. But that doesn’t mean I am not seriously concerned that the last outposts of broadcasting that even suggest the liberal point of view are being overcome by right-wing interests. We can no longer hope for balance at any one outlet. We can only hope that there will be some media left, somewhere, that will do more than spout right-wing Republican propaganda. State-run media? It’s coming, folks. In fact, it’s already here.


  1. Control the message has been Bush's legacy and one of Rove's most refined achievments. From his refusal to hold open, unscripted press conferences, to his hand picked "public" appearances, to his planted "news" and journalists. It's a very scary time in our nation's history, a scary time for our nation's future.

  2. Things just seem to get worse and worse all the time. It's even sadder that this country seems to be going along with all of it.

  3. Hi Lisa-
    I also read this article as I get the NY Times delivered to my home everyday. I wonder if Jim Lehrer, who I also very much enjoy watching and listening to is next? Or will the Bush administration and ther"army" go after NPR as well?

    Food for thought I guess.

    Take care and Im doing ok,

  4. Bert and Ernie are gay, Cookie Monster does too much indulging, and there are entirely too many Latinos and Blacks moralizing on Sesame Street.  We cannot have that.  

  5. I just commented to dh last night that we must make a better effort to support public broadcasting, especially the public radio newscasts. Shame on us for not doing our part - a once-a-year-on-our-anniversary pledge is not enough for what we get in return. We pay more than that for a year's worth of our thoroughly lousy local newspaper.

  6. PBS and NPR are the only hope I've had of decent news coverage.  It scares to me think of the media with them leashed.

  7. Did you ever notice that the most extreme ideologies, the ones that are absolutely certain that they are infallably right, are also the ones who require unanimity of belief? The Nazi's, Communists, and Christian Fundamentalists all insist they have the OneTrueAnswer, yet they quake in fear of a single voice of dissent. How can anyone believe so totally in an ideology so fragile that it can not stand up to questioning?

  8. ibspiccoli4lifeMay 5, 2005 at 8:48 PM


    Remember Noam Chomsky's nightly television series on PBS?  Oh, no, that was William F. Buckley....oh, well, we had Bill Moyer. But seriously, if you want some real liberal news check out one of the Pacifica stations. Pacifica.org. If you don't have one in your area you can listen online. Also check out Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. She's incredible, one of the best journalists out there. Democracynow.org. They carry her show on some satelite providers (TV) and it's carried on all the Pacifica stations and affliates. Give 'em a listen.


  9. I love PBS. I think in more liberal areas, such as California, they'll have a tough time tightening that noose since a good portion of the funds that keep the stations going are by private donations. However, it may change the content that is being pursued by production companies because they won't have a market for it. I sure hope not. But, I don't doubt anything these days. :-) ---Robbie