Every election season, republicans want to end federal funding for PBS and NPR. Democrats respond by defending PBS and NPR. This has occurred every time despite the benefits of public broadcasting. With this tug of war I have realized something: no mainstream politician has ever advocated or even suggested increasing funding for public broadcasting in this country. That is the real problem with PBS and NPR.
PBS and NPR have been practically underfunded for many years. As an end result it has increasingly resorted to creeping commercialism. From expanded sponsored messages right down to begathons for infomercials aimed at old people from folks like Wayne Dyer and Suze Orman. It has gotten so bad that MPT, WETA, and WHUT and many other PBS affiliates are practically unwatchable because they’re hopelessly dependent on these telethons. State funding cuts do not help either.
The other real problem is the demographics. When it comes to public broadcasting and commercial television there is one common demographic: upper-middle class people. They’re the ones who donate the most. Same for commercial television, they’re the ones with the most disposable income. Most of the programing and their offerings are aimed towards them. The other demographics PBS serves are old people, children under 12, and people who like 1970 British comedies and modern British dramas feature old wealthy people or police detectives. Yes, there are the other standard programming they offer but I can’t watch them, because every time I switch to PBS there’s a begathon.
Even for the niche programing some PBS affiliates offer, they shove them later in the night. (Not everyone has a DVR.) So yeah, if you’re over 12 there’s nothing for you in PBS. The worst thing is that there has been no true American drama that was produced by PBS since ever. Possibly in fear of commercial television networks complaining to Congress of undue regulation.
We already seen how educational channels such as Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and TLC (formally known as The Learning Channel)has devolved into reality TV channels with a weak theme since they focused on profit. If federal funding or any funding from the state level goes, they will be forced into accepting real commercials and we already know the eventual outcome when that happens.
The only way to end this constant tug of war is abolish PBS, NPR, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting completely. Replace it a new public broadcasting service that has almost total political independence of the federal government (like the British Broadcasting Corporation) and it’s funded by a guaranteed funding source directly from general revenue (like $100 per person) to be distributed between the national and state level public broadcasting stations. It will finally allow what public broadcasting in this country was not able to do for a long time since the enactment of the Public Broadcasting Act 1967: deliver educational, informational, and entertaining programs for everyone without commercial or political influence (and possibly revive the American broadcasting for the 21st century).