For eight years running, the Bush administration has tried to slash funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This year’s budget proposal would slice in half the $400 million previously allocated for public, nonprofit programming networks like NPR and PBS.
A spokesperson said to The New York Times that the administration is supporting the idea of cable television opening a vast array of diverse programming to the market, saying that public broadcasting is outdated and not attracting interested viewers.
Since public broadcasting’s conception, commercial media interests have always held priority at the federal level. Several politicians, like Richard Nixon and Newt Gingrich, were hell-bent on snuffing public broadcasting. Fortunately, public outrage prevented it.
Programs such as Frontline, NOVA, NewsHour, and NPR, with its array of political programming, provide thought provoking and in-depth mainstream news sources that commercial channels do not, for the most part, offer the public.
Also, they were the only news sources that took a critical view of President George W. Bush’s war on Iraq in 2003.
In most of the world’s democratic nations, a large part of the media spectrum is dedicated to public broadcasting, such as Britain’s BBC. If the United States subsidized public broadcasting services comparable to Britain’s, it would have an annual subsidy of $15 billion. Instead, the annual amount given to nonprofit broadcasting amounts to what ESPN receives in subscription fees every two months.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting should be pushing for new ways to enhance public broadcasting, especially since federal support is not present. One option would be a TV tax or license tax for major media conglomerates, which could bring in as much as $3 billion a year. This would ensure that vital educational and news programs don’t fall victim to declining ratings and taste, like the majority of news outlets of today.