February 24th, 2011
There were any number of people covering this story but I chose Fox for my friend Toby. Hey Tobe, “Fair and Balanced!”
Republicans have been working towards the complete defunding of public broadcasting for as long as I can remember and I can’t say that I blame them. The liberal anti-Republican bias of public broadcasting runs the gamut of mild (like Neal Conan of Talk of the Nation) to thoughtless and embarrassingly extreme (Terry Gross of Fresh Air). And even if there was no bias, which is not possible, there is still the question of whether it is appropriate for the Federal Government to be funding a news and entertainment organization.
One can reasonably question whether a government funded organization would honestly or adequately question the actions of it’s revenue source. On the other hand that same organization might be relatively free from corporate bias or even more significantly it might be more concerned with “important” news stories and less concerned with drumming up ratings. Naturally if the organization is not tied to ratings in some way one might wonder how it will stay relevant.
However, that is for a hypothetical organization. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is a real organization with a track record that we can examine. All in all I think the CPB has done an adequate job. One of the problems I believe the CPB has is that it’s run by a bunch of earnest folks who really believe in what they are doing but have not had their idealism tempered with real life experience. The other problem is that the people have acquired the erroneous idea that they are supposed to be a directive instrument for social change. I remember listening to a discussion about racial equality on Talk of the Nation when one the participants, Clarence Page, said that it was up to “we in the media” to educate the public so they would hold the correct view about racial equality, to which no one objected. I was astounded. While I agreed with Mr. Page’s idea regarding racial equality, an institution receiving funds from the government has absolutely no place to be directing or lobbying the public on what to think. The role of a news agency is to inform and NOT to educate. The conclusions that the listeners and viewers reach are to be their own and not the product of the reporter.
This makes me think of the BBC. They too have their bias but in spite of that they are remarkably even handed in their coverage. They have correspondents everywhere in the world, like Egypt and Libya, giving us a ground view blow by blow of developing events. However I think their show piece is interviewing representatives from the government. They are in a word, brutal. I remember when I first started listening to the BBC and a Member of Parliament (MP) was being interviewed. Actually he was being eviscerated and I was thinking that it was far from a reasonable way to interview. He was not given an inch and was required to defend all his statements and justify his position in light of that issue’s context. Then they did the exact same thing to the MP from the opposing party. I got it. It’s brilliant. Make the MPs defend their policies and the listener can determine which one seems the most reasonable and why.
If we continue funding the CPB I would like to see strings attached to that money requiring them to conduct their news coverage like the BBC. If that happened the CPB might actually become a real asset to the nation. I also think if this happened we could take the initiative from the politicians, make them actually say something that we can evaluate and agree or disagree with, and perhaps dial back some of the polarization in this country.