Corporation for Public Broadcasting

by | Jul 17, 2005

While the nation debates the future of Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I have one question: Is it becoming increasingly obvious to anyone else that there are moral and practical flaws in a publicly financed media? Since its inception in 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has had a tumultuous run. There have been nonstop […]

While the nation debates the future of Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I have one question: Is it becoming increasingly obvious to anyone else that there are moral and practical flaws in a publicly financed media?

Since its inception in 1967, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has had a tumultuous run.

There have been nonstop accusations from both conservative and liberal camps that the programming is biased, and considering that we’ve had both conservative and liberal presidents since it was founded, this is not an unlikely claim. In defiance to any attempt at separating the CPB from the politicians, the President of the United States, with congress’ approval, appoints all eight board members (who have six year terms). This means that in 2006, most of the board members will likely be more conservative.

Conversely, in 1998, most of the board members were likely more liberal.

The problem here is one that cannot be avoided no matter how many reforms are implemented, safeguards are put into place, or investigations are begun. This is because the government will always be the voice behind what it funds. Any news media financed by the government is automatically suspect, because one of the the media’s central roles is that of the skeptic. The very notion of a public media is antithetical to the journalistic integrity that drives reporters. When was the last time a PBS reporter broke a major story? They don’t, because they can’t. They work for the very people who they should be investigating. There is an obvious difficulty in being skeptical of those who finance your paycheck.

The private news media will never have this deficiency.

In addition to this, Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio are widely considered boring and elitist. This view is so rampant that it has found its way into mainstream comedy programs, such as The Simpsons.

While this may seem like a childish remark, it illustrates an important point. Would any private media company be able to survive if its stations were widely uninteresting to the average listener or viewer? No, of course not. It would have to shape up or die. The government doesn’t have to listen to the demands of the people though; instead, it tells the public what it should be watching and listening to. Are we paying $400 million per year to be told we’re not intelligent enough to decide for ourselves?1

With all that we pay to fund CPB, has anybody else stopped to ask, “Why do we have it to begin with?”

People have argued the need for welfare on the basis that the impoverished cannot help themselves. They have argued for health care on the basis that the sick cannot afford it. They have argued for Social Security on the basis that the elderly have not saved. But what can they possibly say about the need for public broadcasting? We have hundreds of media stations – both radio and television – to suit almost any interest a person has. The free market has shown its superiority in creating these choices, yet we still have not abolished the CPB, which – in comparison – shows no reason for existing.

It is a moral crime that $400 million is stolen from us every year to fund an ineffective, uninteresting, and corrupt media when our own private sector has shown itself perfectly suitable. The recent controversies surrounding public broadcasting are nothing new, but they do illustrate an important point: The public financing of media stations is morally and practically inexcusable.

Matt Lawton is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Knox College.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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