Sunday, March 13, 2011

De-Fund Public Broadcasting

I like to watch PBS every now and then, when they have a good symphony, or a Fleetwood Mac reunion, or a Roy Orbison concert -- stuff like that. I was channel surfing last night, and I stopped to watch a music program on KCTS. At the bottom of the screen, they were running a crawler that said, "Congress to vote on de-funding public broadcasting. Call your congressman." Since I'm a good little do-bee, I decided to write (not call) my congressman:
Dear Congressman Larsen,

Support for public broadcasting comes in part from mandatory contributions from taxpayers like me. Which article of The Constitution gives government the authority to do that? I can find no such authority. Please de-fund public broadcasting.

If PBS and NPR want to run a non-profit, non-commercial broadcasting system with voluntary support from various politically active organizations such as the Tides Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and with voluntary support from various corporations and with voluntary contributions from viewers like you, then I'm fine with that.

If public broadcasting were to run programming that is consistent with my interests and core values, I might even voluntarily divert a portion of my own hard-earned income from other charitable causes. In light of recent events, however, I now know that public broadcasting is not consistent with my core values. Nevertheless, the IRS siphons a portion of my earnings out of every paycheck for public broadcasting. I am not at liberty to decide for myself. Please de-fund public broadcasting.
The "recent events" that I mentioned in my letter refer to a "sting" operation in which James O'Keefe recorded video of NPR CEO Ron Schiller making derogatory remarks about conservatives and the tea party movement (among other things), and posted it on the Internet. The video attracted widespread attention, and Mr. Schiller was relieved of his duties at NPR.

In the interest of fairness, I will link to this article, which is quite critical of the James O'Keefe video that brought down NPR CEO Ron Schiller. However, after all is said and analyzed, this article does not exonerate Schiller so much as it slimes James O'Keefe. I am not a big fan of O'Keefe's tactics, but I think we deserve to know what the leaders of organizations receiving public funds really think.

In the end, the question isn't whether public broadcasting is a worthy cause; it is whether government has the constitutional authority to subsidize it. If we really want it, then we'll voluntarily pay for it out of our own pockets, not someone else's.

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