If you visit the PBS web site, you’ll get a screen full of reasons why public broadcasting is so valuable, including impressive figures on how many people watch.
“PBS’ primetime audience is significantly larger than many commercial channels, including Bravo (PBS’ audience is 92% larger), TLC (88%), Discovery Channel (69%), HGTV (64%), HBO (62%) and A&E (29%). In addition, PBS’ primetime rating for news and public affairs programming is 91% higher than that of CNN. (Nielsen NPower, 9/19/2011-9/9/2012),” the site says.
Thank you, PBS, for making the argument for cutting your network from the taxpayer umbilical cord.
The first lesson in running a successful media business is that audience attracts advertising, which in turn results in profits. Anyone who thinks PBS is commercial-free hasn’t watched much lately. And anyone who thinks Sesame Street, Antiques Roadshow or Downton Abbey can’t survive on its own doesn’t live in reality.
Sure, you can argue that a purely commercial network might not have produced such shows if the government hadn’t established public broadcasting in the 1960s. But establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes money to a variety of programs and stations, has proven there is a market for such programs. Thank you, now it’s time for the government to get out of the way.
The ridiculous political maneuvering around Big Bird and Mitt Romney’s resolve to cut funding is based solely on the perception that most people like these programs and perceive that ending public funding also would end those programs. The premise is voters are too stupid to understand that the shows will continue.
People argue that funding for public broadcasting makes up a miniscule 0.014 percent of the national budget. We won’t solve the national debt by eliminating it.
However, that is not an argument for why taxes are necessary to fund it, or why the United States, of all places, needs government-funded news programs.
The other oft-heard argument is that PBS provides programming to rural and poor areas that otherwise would have no access to quality educational programming. It would be interesting to see the ratings such programs garner in those areas. Regardless, there is little reason to believe their access would be cut.
This entire controversy ignores the titanic shifts now taking place in the Information Age. Traditional delivery mechanisms are being challenged.
Yahoo and the ad agency Carat Interactive released a study this year showing that teens spend more time online than they do in front of the television or talking on the phone. Other studies have contradicted this view, but it’s hard to ignore all the alternatives out there, from Apple TV to Roku, that allow people to watch an impressive array of programs on-demand, including international shows, and for a fraction of the cost of cable.
In light of this, it seems silly to keep pumping $445 million of our taxes each year into public broadcasting.