Public Broadcasting Act is still gold

The thirst some Republicans have for the blood of public broadcasting should make every American shudder.  If the new appropriations bill HR68 proposed by some members of Congress passes it could mean the end of community based media for millions of Americans. When the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 was signed into law by then President Lyndon B. Johnson it was, in his words, "to enrich a man's spirit."  Educational programs, art and music content were virtually non-existent in commercial media at that time.

It was decided then that it was imperative for the nation to have a foundation of richness that went beyond just reporting on the news of the day; that men, women and children should have access to programs that gave them balance in their lives.

The Public Broadcasting Act was a precursor that led to the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which allocates grants to public television and radio stations like KCET, KCRW and many others across the U.S. for non ad-supported content, and to give local communities a voice.

This means that content won't be attached to the interests of companies like General Electric or any other major advertisers who basically endow various Network, local TV and radio stations with corporate advertising dollars only with corporate interests in mind.

What is at stake now with this bill before Congress is the fundamental right for individuals to choose where and how they receive information within the broadcast medium.

Although some politicians would have us believe this right is fluid, what they fail to realize is that if they remove the plug, quality programming will simply swirl down the proverbial drain.

Most commercial stations don't invest in what goes on in the community unless it is deemed newsworthy on the "if it bleeds it leads" scale.  So, if we lose local coverage of things like power outages, local elections or even city council meetings, we lose the things ordinary people are connected to, and what matters to them most.

"The smaller stations, where 25 to 30 percent of their budgets are made up of these CPB grants, they would really, really be hurt," says Jennifer Ferro, General Manager at KCRW. "They wouldn't be able to provide any local coverage whatsoever."

CPB is also a supporter of minority-based media that promotes diversity in television and radio, something clearly lacking in today's celebrity and politically driven broadcast climate.

Even broadcasters like PBS could see their funding cut and thereby lose invaluable programs like Frontline and Nova.  National Public Radio, which is syndicated across the U.S. and has been made the scapegoat for all things that are supposedly wrong with "liberal media" are also on the chopping block.

The fact that listeners of NPR are made up of a cross section of the population that includes more than just a bunch of left-leaning commies doesn't carry much weight for politicians, motivated mostly by career objectives, who want to dim the lights of public broadcasters.

Millions of Americans would be shut out of balanced, fact-based news reporting by these and other stations that are committed to superior programming.  Free Press, a non-profit that promotes media reform, education and advocacy, warns of the danger of cutting funding to broadcasters like NPR and PBS.

In one of their recent press releases Free Press notes: "For some communities, local NPR and PBS stations are the only source of serious reporting.  They also employ thousands of journalists at a time when commercial newsrooms are shedding jobs."

Can Americans really afford to only get information from corporate sponsored commercial media sources?  That is the question that remains before us while a bill that can essentially wipe local community based coverage of news, events and educational programs off the map sits in Congress, waiting for approval from individuals who clearly don't have the public's interest at heart.

"[Local stations] are usually providing news and information to areas that commercial media has long since forgotten," Ferro says.  And if the ayes have it we will lose more than just Bert and Ernie, we will lose our most valuable community asset; our voice.

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