Sunday, February 15, 2009

Public Broadcasting's Urgent Cry (Wolf)

Blue Ridge Public Television has shouted its nearly annual "wolf" as the Virginia House of Representatives once again tries to separate its Republican self from all things public about our electronic media. The Repubs have a couple of issues with public broadcasting: they perceive it to be liberal, they are philosophically opposed to supporting liberal causes.

The first assumption was reached because public broadcasting is not talk radio and the rest of it follows pretty neatly. Right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin recently railed against public broadcasting asking to be included in the federal bailout package (it says it can create 18,000 jobs with additional funding), but admitted that much of that request is for tax breaks, not checks-in-the-mail.

Blue Ridge PBS, meanwhile, says the Virginia House would cut $500,000 of its budget, causing the elimination of educational programs to 42 school districts and that new jobs program, "Job Quest" (whose benefit I have yet to see). The Senate says public broadcasting's state money should be reduced 10 percent, which BRPBS says is OK. Our local affiliate says elimination of the money and local programming would put us at the mercy of outside programming (think Clear Channel).

That may be true, but my guess is that the House will fork over some dough, as it always does. The House Repubs are a lot like the block bully who causes dis-ease among his constituents just to show he can and takes great satisfaction when the bullied wring their hands and cry out loud.

Public TV should take a page from Public Radio's book and not act so worried (it could also take a page from the fund-raising book and not try to raise money when "Antiques Road Show" is scheduled to run). NPR gets two percent of its budget from the government and, frankly, if that's gone, the network would survive (and it would likely be even healthier not having to spend all that lobbying money for such a paltry amount of return).

In any case, call Morgan Griffith (the Salem delegate who loves squeezing liberals) and tell him that if he doesn't let loose the purse strings you'll ... you'll ... well, you just don't know what you'll do since you don't live in Salem and can't vote against him. But you'll do something.

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