public broadcasting

IN MY YEARS of writing this column, the politics and culture of U.S. public broadcasting has been a topic in regular rotation. During Democratic administrations, I’ve tended to bash both the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio for elitism, timidity, and pro-corporate bias.

But during Republican administrations it’s always seemed necessary to defend the very existence of a nonprofit, public-interest alternative in the vast, depressing, and sometimes dangerous strip mall that is U.S. commercial media.

These days the timidity of U.S. public broadcasting is still in evidence. For instance, NPR has steadfastly refused to join other prestigious media outlets in calling Donald Trump’s patent deliberate falsehoods by the appropriate four-letter Anglo-Saxon word: “Lies.” And as for elitism, take Victoria ... please!

But let’s put all that aside for now. The guard has changed again, and a new president has issued a budget blueprint that would eliminate any federal spending to support public broadcasting. So it’s time again to restate the obvious reasons why public media matter.

Brandon Hook 11-06-2012
Brandon Hook / Sojourners

The Million Puppet March: A march to the Capitol building with puppets in hand. Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Last Saturday, supporters of Public Broadcasting gathered in Washington, D.C., for a march in response to Mitt Romney's now-infamous Big Bird comment, referring to his plan to cut funding for PBS. Armed with puppets and posters, the rally culiminated in speeches and puppet shows with the backdrop of the nation's Capitol building.

Who is the "public" in public television?

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