Thursday, February 17, 2011

Conservatives are smart to defund PBS/NPR

The move to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is both predictable and smart for conservatives.  PBS provides the only major newscast and investigative journalism on TV that is not from a big corporation.  They provide details and nuance into issues.  They allow thoughtful discussion.  NPR is my least favourite news channel on my satellite radio, but it is still miles better than any commercial radio for providing news and insight.  Whatever harm and weakening conservatives have done to the public broadcasters in America through relentless working the refs would and could be repaired by simply funding these organizations properly and for long periods of time.

Conservatives get why public broadcasting is bad for their cause and quite naturally oppose it.  It has nothing to do with "bias" or a desire to save money or any of that.  An America that got its information from PBS and NPR would not have believed Saddam helped Al Qaeda, or had actual WMDs in 2003 and thus would not have supported going to war in Iraq.  This is true for any number of popular and useful right wing myths from Welfare Queens to the imminent doom of Social Security.  The CPB funds local radio stations that provide actual coverage of important local affairs rather than endless police blotter murder and rape crime stories.  Accurate and appropriately ranked news is vital to democracy and the lack of it allows propagandists free rein. 

The tragedy is that so few internet liberals understand the importance of defending US public broadcasting.  There is still a neoliberal internet triumphantilist bent to the various liberal sources that assumes somehow journalism (particularly local and investigative) and news will be just fine because the market fairies will somehow figure out how to profit from click-revenue and not have it end up looking like Politco or the Huffington Post.  Once the funding goes, it will probably never come back.  Liberals allowed the right to weaken public broadcasting to the point that they no longer care what happens to it.  No doubt it will limp along for awhile based solely on donations, but if donations were going to make these organizations thrive, they already would be. 

Good luck winning the information war without the most trusted name in news (and actually even the second most trusted among ordinary Republicans).

I made my case for much stronger funding of NPR and PBS at OL.   I also explained why journalism is now a market failure.  Both posts stand up well re-reading them now.

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