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Byline: The Register-Guard

Republicans once again want to drive a stake through the heart of the liberal monster that is public broadcasting. Hard as it may be, people who value the incomparable richness and quality available on public television and radio should respond by saying: "Bring it on."

Let the Republicans zero out the federal funds for public broadcasting and send a strong signal that taxpayers will not provide a platform for liberals like Bill Moyers to criticize the Bush administration, no matter how many Emmys (30) he has won. Of course, Moyers has retired, but for Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), it's the message that's important.

The message will be unmistakable throughout America: Elimination or reduction of this high-quality programming, much of which is unavailable anywhere else on television or radio - particularly in smaller communities - is brought to you by your Republican congressional delegation.

If Republicans in Congress are clueless enough to believe that red-state families aren't watching the wholesome, nonviolent, educational children's programming on PBS stations, let them find out on Election Day. If these misguided lawmakers believe their constituents aren't listening to "Morning Edition" - the most popular radio news program in the nation - and "All Things Considered," let them slash away.

But they had better be prepared to explain why they wasted time threatening to kill shows such as "Sesame Street" and "Reading Rainbow" while they avoided doing anything to address a broken health care system that's threatening the lives of 45 million uninsured Americans.

This charade about needing to add balance to the liberal tilt of public broadcasting has gone on long enough. In the early 1970s, PBS coverage of Vietnam and Watergate so infuriated the Nixon administration that it cut funding for nearly all public affairs programming. A decade ago, Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich revived the specter of liberal bias as a reason to propose eliminating all federal support for public broadcasting.

On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would reduce next year's federal allocation to public broadcasting by 46 percent. The measure slices $100 million from next year's budget of the CPB, the private nonprofit that distributes federal funds to local stations. The CPB funds make up about 15 percent of total public broadcasting revenue, and those funds in turn may represent anywhere from 6 percent to 40 percent of an individual station's annual revenue.

Blackmailing PBS executives with threats to cut off funding undermines the editorial independence of journalists producing public affairs programs. But it doesn't stop there. Because of public broadcasting's connection to the government, even children's programming can run afoul of administration censors.

Pressure from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings in January caused PBS to yank an episode of "Postcards From Buster" in which the cartoon rabbit visited a Vermont family headed by two lesbian moms. Spellings found the prospect of happy children behaving normally in a family with same-sex parents so offensive that she urged PBS to "strongly consider" returning the federal funds that went into its production.

The noble aspirations that gave rise to the birth of publicly funded television and radio in 1967 have fallen victim to the very politics the CPB was created to screen out. With CPB Chairman Tomlinson hiring ombudsmen to review programs for anti-Bush bias and decreeing that PBS needs to better reflect "the Republican mandate," the time has come for public broadcasting to free itself from such destructive political manipulation.

The road to freedom leads directly away from Washington, D.C., to a place where volunteers are always ready to take your pledge calls.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; PBS must learn to live without federal funding
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 20, 2005
Words:602
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