Thursday, June 23, 2005

Saving Big Bird's Privates

The Assault On Public Broadcasting

In 1967, President Johnson signed The Public Broadcasting Act , which established Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The act begins with the simple words, “It is in the public interest…” In signing the bill, President Johnson spoke these words:

In 1862, the Morrill Act set aside lands in every State--lands which belonged to the people--and it set them aside in order to build the land-grant colleges of the Nation.

So today we rededicate a part of the airwaves--which belong to all the people--and we dedicate them for the enlightenment of all the people.

Enlightenment is often in the eyes of the beholder.

“The character [Tinky-Winky], whose voice is obviously that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse in many episodes and has become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide. Now, further evidence that the creators of the series intend for Tinky Winky to be a gay role model have surfaced. He is purple -- the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay-pride symbol.” - Jerry Fallwell

I guess you can't please everyone.

The decades long conservative attack on Public Broadcasting has entered a new phase. It’s a two pronged pincer attack. On one hand, congressional conservatives are keeping up the fight to defund the institution. On June 16th, for instance, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut various public broadcasting budgets nearly in half. Cooler minds prevailed and much of the cut proposed by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) was restored. The CPB Funding Restoration Amendment passed the House by 2-1 margin.

It’s clear that the outpouring of public activism swayed the minds of the GOP dominated House. Countless phone calls, letters, petitions, and lobbying have won the skirmish. Has the public interest won? Not so fast...

The more insidious prong of the pincer attack is the stacking of the CPB with conservative ideologues. If they can't defund the public airwaves, at least they can transform it into a version of FOX lite. From encouraging local stations to broadcast shows like "Journal Editorial Report", to hiring an ombudsman and consultant to root out so-called liberal bias in shows like Bill Moyers' "NOW" program. CPB Chair, Kenneth Tomlinson's latest move is the appointment of Republican National Committee Co-Chair Patricia de Stacy Harrison as President of CPB.

If they can't rid themselves of a public interest institution, they'll turn it into a beast that progressives and moderates won't support.

Having done our part in the restoration of funding, it's more important now to keep PBS and NPR to turning into another cog in the right wing noise machine. Here's some links that I hope will help us keep the CPB and public broadcasting an independent media, free from the political fray, and the rare bit of excellence it has been to date.

Sign The People For The American Way's petition to dump Kenneth Tomlinson

Media Matters' Hands Off Public Broadcasting

Bill Moyers: "The Radical Right Wing is Very Close to Achieving a Longtime Goal of Undermining the Independence of Public Broadcasting"


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