I have waited a comparatively long time to write this editorial because I had hoped that the fuss over the appointment of Ken Tomlinson as chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would die down and everybody in the world of Public Broadcasting would go on about their business.
But since the lefties who seem most aggrieved by Tomlinson’s appointment are determined to filibuster the subject to death, it’s time to add some insight you might otherwise not get.
But first, some full disclosure.
My father, a man who I am justifiably proud of, is one of the inventors of what is now called public broadcasting.
Back when there were only three networks, when news was something Walter Cronkite delivered, when teachers were suspicious of TV in the classroom because it might displace them, when cable tv was called Community Antenna Television, when children’s programming was Howdy Doodie, Captain Kangaroo and a local cartoon show, a young electrical engineering Professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, saw what was being done on television in New York and Boston for children, the arts and education and decided if it could be done there, why not Peoria?
He created out of whole cloth, with very little money but a lot of community support, a television station which prospers even today (34 years later) as Professor Emeritus Philip Weinberg approaches 80 and is still Channel 47’s most dedicated viewer (and occasional critic).
The experts—mostly those who thought such things could only be accomplished with lots of tax dollars—told him to forget about it, it couldn’t be done. He’s outlived most of those experts and intends to outlive the rest of them.
Back then, you could have held a meeting of the most influential people in public broadcasting in a fairly small room.
Well, time has marched on and we now live in that 500 channel universe which they only talked about in the 70’s.
Public television still has plenty to offer, but it has become a big business these days. And its leadership doesn’t like to be told that maybe, just maybe, they are a little biased in the selection of their programming. In fact, they don’t like to be told much of anything. But they sure want our money.
So when the Bush administration appointed a well respected conservative Republican to head the agency which doles out the Federal part of the PBS budget (about 15% of the total), the public broadcasting industry started trying to expel him as if he were a lung transplant which didn’t take.
They do this by complaining to their friends in the mainstream media, like Dallas’ Molly Ivans, who then do hit pieces accusing Tomlinson of, gasp, politicizing their sacred PBS.
"He is a Bush information apparatchik," wrote Ivans last weekend.
Never mind that Democrat Norm Pattiz is in charge of the United State’s broadcast propaganda efforts in the Middle East.
That you won’t see written about by the Ivans of the world.
Well, we have some advice for the people at PBS who are in high dudgeon over the mere suggestion that they should simply balance their political programming a bit.
Get over it.
Tomlinson isn’t going anywhere, any more than we’re going to rerun the 2004 election and John Kerry will replace George Bush. We had an election last November and decided all this.
We have elections in this country so that the people in power can make appointments of competent individuals. If you don’t like those appointments remember to vote in the next election. You might win.
But if you continue to act like bulls in a china shop, you may well do some serious damage to the institution you claim to love. For every political action, there is usually an equal and opposite reaction.
I don’t think Tomlinson has any master plan to destroy the good things my father helped create. Because he would have to fight equally conservative people like me to do so.
But balance? Lunatic fringe lefties like Bill Moyers need it just as much as does Rush Limbaugh.
And if public broadcasting, 15% funded by our tax dollars, can’t be balanced, what can?
Last week in this space, I made the mistake of sending the wrong version of a computer file to press and, as a result, left the impression that the Las Vegas Sun had always been an afternoon paper and the Review Journal had always been a morning paper. In fact, it is the reverse. It was the onset of the Joint Operating Agreement which created the current situation. It was a difference of eight words. Needless to say, we're proofreading more carefully these days. I apologize to those who rightfully expect more from us