Thursday, April 07, 2011

Why We Need Public Broadcasting by Lefty

For decades, Republicans and conservatives have been against public broadcasting for a variety of reasons now, with the budget crisis that is engulfing our country, they see this as the perfect time to pounce and finally end that which they seem to loathe so much.

In my opinion, they are wrong. Their belief in conspiratorial liberal media bias and hatred of everything related to the government has blinded them to the value of public broadcasting.

Why do we need public broadcasting? There are hundreds of channels out there on cable and satellite and countless things to find online. So why is public broadcasting needed? It's actually quite simple really.

Public broadcasting is not motivated by profit. Thus, it has the freedom to pursue news stories and provide thoughtful and engaging programming with a depth and detail that is just not possible in the for-profit media outlets. We need media that is not motivated by profit. Most media outlets are concerned with advertising dollars above all else, not the content of their programming.

I'm not begrudging them, really. That is how they stay in business and I want them to stay in business. But we also need an alternative that doesn't have that same driving force behind what they do.

Let's take NPR as an example because when we talk about public broadcasting we are generally talking about NPR and PBS. In the Oklahoma City market, none of the programming on the news talk stations (KTOK and KOKC) can hold a candle to the in-depth and detailed news reporting or the diversity of opinions in analysis that are found on the programs playing on KGOU. One member of the round table show News Studio B on KTOK even admitted as such a few weeks ago.

Now let's look at PBS, and specifically the children's programming on PBS Kids versus that of Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. Compare the shows on PBS to those of its rivals and you will find those on PBS are far more educational. I grew up watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and those shows taught me lessons that have stayed with me to this day and I know my children have learned many of those same lessons watching those shows. Now, to give credit where credit is due, shows like Blue's Clues and Bear in the Big Blue House are great for kids. But overall, Nick and Disney just can't compare or compete.

So, in this time of belt tightening, I think that public broadcasting is an investment that we should continue, if not increase.

Yes, the budget needs to be cut. But there are better ways to do it than attacking public broadcasting.

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