Few critics of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have anything bad to say about Big Bird or Arthur or any of the children’s characters that entertain and educate young people on public television. Yet it’s clear these are no ordinary times and Congress and President Barack Obama should take a long hard look at the roughly $400 million in federal tax money that public radio and television receive annually. That federal support is being debated in Congress this week.
In television’s infancy, when there were only a few commercial broadcast networks, a stronger case could be made for government support of public broadcasting for news and educational programming. The proliferation of channels now available through cable and satellite makes this a distinctly different landscape
Public broadcasting offers first-rate programming and many citizens, including some employees at this newspaper, choose to support it with donations. But we think it’s time public broadcasting should be weaned off its reliance on tax dollars.
As much as we might enjoy public television and radio, those entities clearly compete for advertising dollars with economically challenged print and broadcast companies that do not receive government subsidies — including this newspaper. The public television and radio stations are non-commercial in name only as they increasingly give their sponsors more leeway in advertising their products or services.
The Brainerd Dispatch sells advertising and charges for subscriptions to its print product. It does not conduct pledge drives or ask for contributions from the public or the government. Keeping our doors open in what we consider a privately owned public service is a challenge these days. It’s inherently unfair when independent, private sector news organizations must compete with news organizations that are subsidized by government funding.
The money the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives from the government is not going to balance the federal budget but it’s an example of the type of government spending that is going to have to be reconsidered if the government is ever going to get its house in order.