|There are aspects of the situation that have always made it difficult for me to feel clear about it. |
Public broadcasting allows the possibility of program material that would not likely push to the head in the commercial media environment. The entertainment business, which is what we're talking about, is content blind. The requirement of content is to produce revenue. Because of that business requirement (which is, after all, the business requirement for everything), the entertainment media will be whatever it has to be to be the most profitable. What that be right now happens to have a lot to do with reality shows (Although that growth has, as if by miracle, fallen off this year for the first time since it got steam. And, at the same time, industry reports say networks are about to go back to rolling out more traditional, scripted formats, using recognized actors and more legitimate plot scenarios). The cheese-whiz diet is not going away any time soon, though. If there was no public radio or TV tomorrow, I don't think there would be much of a feeding frenzy going on to pick up shows.
That is the the key difference between popular culture, and everything else- it is not a business requirement for it to contain artistic or educational value in order to be profitable; it may or may not contain some. This is obvious, sure, but it's also a very hard lesson for content providers (that's what they call writers, artists, musicians, entertainers, and so forth nowadays) that take a certain seriousness to what they do. The entertainment business always has and always will have a lot to do with cheese, skillfull sheep-shearing, and pulling the string in front of the cat. It's part of what endears it to us.
I value much of the programming in PBS and NPR, and if you compare their production budgets to the whole of the commercial TV and radio industry, they are pretty damned efficient. I find that NPR gets current, actually important news and business information to me regularly, and accurately. As far as sports and other programs interviewing authors, they usually are worth hearing for their insights, and I don't mind if they are touring a book- I expect that many of these people write books. If NPR and PBS were truly heavily left-biased, I wouldn't be able to listen to them. I am disturbed by Tomlinson's (CPB) actions regarding monitoring, and the motivations of all those linked to that. (There's background everywhere, like: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/12/AR2005071201678_pf.html . NPR and PBS' reactions were interesting to listen to the day that broke out, as well). It's also noteworthy that recent national polling shows that the country seems to very much want public programming, and value it.
Of course,I also never thought The National Endowment for the Arts has been overall anywhere near a bad thing, either, even when it has "endowed" some really goofy stuff. So, I guess I make exceptions for art in my generally Libertarian politics.
Pragmatically, I believe that things would be less if they were gone tomorrow. What goes on in terms of practices at CPB, and how they compare with its original charter are what needs looked at. How (and by whom) CPB is looked at in terms of being used as a chess piece needs looked at.