Democrats & Liberals Archives

Urban Renewal On Sesame Street

The Republicans are after public television again.

Haven’t heard yet? It’s one of those nice quiet things they do when they wish to fulfill agenda items, but don’t wish to involve a public that might not be so sympathetic to their aims.

Personally, I have a bone to pick with these folks. Why don’t they recognize that this is one of the liberal programs that works?

They've already cut funding before for this, forcing PBS to make multiple funding drives a year, rather than take the one or two occasions to ask that they use to.

Educational television. It's not very popular with the networks, who usually put in one or two hours worth, usually with some crazed animal handler going after some creature no man or child in their right mind would chase after.

On PBS, instead, you would see Marty Stouffer showing America's vast wilderness and the creatures in it. You would see creatures on Nature in their natural state, instead of as part of a sideshow display for risk takers with better corporate sponsorship than common sense.

It doesn't come up much, but one of the advantages of public institutions can be simplicity. Where a show on commercial television might end up having to jazz things up with the script or the content, Public Television is often free to stick to being straightforward. That is not to say that PBS isn't visually stunning at times, or lacking in any sense of theatre. They're just not so obsessed with the salesman ship.

There is much to be said for the virtue of doing things just for the hell of it. Would any other network have run Doctor Who re-runs, or Brit-Coms? Would any other network run shows like The Territory, with it's often off-the wall, avant-garde media selections? Would any other network have The McLaughlin Group, Tucker Carlson, the Wall Street Journal, and Bill Moyers on the same lineup, and not spontaneously combust?

There is also much to say for the independence that the PBS stations have. The Newshour with Jim Lehrer is regarded as one of highest integrity newscasts out there, stripped of all the sensationalism and pandering that plague other newscasts. Frontline stands out as a fine example of investigative journalism. Where else would you find out that MTV's hopping parties often feature paid revelers, that the FDA was having serious conflicts of interest regarding drug approvals (at least two or three years before Vioxx), and the real behind the scenes conflicts going on over the war in Iraq? It's too bad some Republicans don't watch it. They'd be surprised at what they find out.

I'm not going to offer up conspiracy theories about how Republicans don't like that independence. I'm sure it irks them.
But that's not the important issue. When I wrote about the HDTV deadline in the post before last, I responded to one commenter about the value of television by citing its news, educational, and cultural value.

I know about this, because I learned a great deal as a child because of public television. Sesame Street, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, and 3-2-1 Contact comprised some of my earliest television memories. I watched a lot of those toy commercial cartoon shows, relished them even, but because of Public Television, I had more than just that option available to me.

I think many conservatives would like to believe that competition is the only force that good things, interesting things can come out of, but not all competition is financial, and not all of it should be. Today's television networks are often run by folks steeped in a youth culture that does not value education, does not look outside its own narrow interests. We need an antidote to that in the media, a safe-haven where kids are raised to become adults, and adults are encouraged to stay that way. Until the Republican Party can come up with something to replace that, something that we can all enjoy as Americans, they should keep their Hands off PBS

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at June 11, 2005 10:59 AM