Whinging or soliciting help? The pitiful state of public broadcasting

By Nathan Barton

I just received this e-mail from Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, the local affiliate of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and National Public Radio (NPR) and all the other “public media” that the folks over at Freedom Net Daily like to refer to as the “American State Media.”  Here it is, except for pictures (I’ve stripped all the formatting out):

In a time of uncertainty, it’s up to all of us to protect what matters most.

Friends of SDPB relies on contributions from members like you to support the quality programming you enjoy each day. But today we’re not asking for your money. Instead, we need your voice!
With the call for the elimination of federal funding of Public Broadcasting, we’re counting even more heavily on loyal members like you to help protect and strengthen the future of SDPB. How? Visit ProtectMyPublicMedia.org. Sign the online petition to let your representatives know that you support public broadcasting and value the programs and services that it provides.

You may also tell your story about how public media has made a difference in your life – whether through the violence-free and commercial-free programming on PBS Kids, or the balanced news you rely on from NPR and PBS, or the local coverage of state government, public affairs, and high school activities.

Now more than ever, we need additional help from our members in order to protect and strengthen the future of SDPB and public media across the nation.

No matter what changes we may face in the future, Friends of SDPB is committed to providing the resources to create quality programming for you, your family and everyone in South Dakota.

Thank you for your ongoing and steadfast commitment to the important work of SDPB. We couldn’t do it without you.

Sincerely, Ryan Howlett, CEO, Friends of SDPB

Now, it is obviously a first response to the budget proposed by Trump (loudly discussed on radio the past few days), which (according to some) eliminates 1/3 of 1% of discretionary funding in a pitiful attempt to balance the budget and deal with $20 TRILLION dollars of FedGov debt.  CPB and a whole lot of other programs may be axed.  Naturally, the supporters of public radio and television are alarmed. The media to which they are devoted are in danger of losing their sugar daddy.

Now, to the everyday Joe or Jane Business Owner, and their loyal customers, if something like this happens, there are two choices.  The statist choice is to go lobby to get the guvmint to keep paying you, so you can stay on the guvmint’s teat.  The rational, lover of liberty choice is to go out and seek more customers, new sources of funding.  To advertise and point out what great service and products they provide, and how – more than ever – they want your support financially through donations and buying their products and subscribing to their services.

As you read the email, you see that such an approach occurred to Mr. Howlett and his fellow Friends.  And was clearly IMMEDIATELY rejected for the first, statist approach.  They not only can’t give up the “free” government money – money stolen from taxpayers and laundered by a whole host of government bureaucrats before a small percentage is actually paid to SDPB and other such agencies (who are also, actually, just another layer of government bureaucrats) so that you and I don’t have to listen to advertising or pay a monthly or annual subscription to access their music, news, opinion, and other programming.

And so that the subsidized operations of SDPB can continue to put commercial radio stations in rural and frontier South Dakota out of business, or force them to become subsidiaries of big national broadcasting companies controlled by the media allies of the FedGov in New York and Hollywood and Nashville.  Because small local radio and TV stations – whether non-profit or not – just cannot compete when their competitors are shoveled big bucks their way by state and local government, and even more by donations from foundations and local magnates taking advantage of matching funds and tax breaks to help promote their progressive view of everything.  Especially not when those local media are also getting gouged by taxes and beat down by regulations designed to favor the SDPBs of the world with their massive networks of translators and “local” stations that parrot whatever NPR and SDPB put out of their DC and Brookings headquarters.

The same thing has happened in many other states: I’ve seen it in Colorado (where the wonderful listener- AND advertiser-supported classical music “superstation” KVOD was driven into bankruptcy and then absorbed into Colorado Public Radio), and Nebraska and other places. It is little different than when a state or local government goes into the garbage business or the fitness gym business, or any other business sector where a government-endorsed and -subsidized activity competes directly with privately-owned enterprises, “for the good of the community.”  Stolen money is used to build and maintain competition, and government (local, state, federal) promote and endorse it as “better” and “safer” and “ensuring that the poor can enjoy it, too.”

Once upon a time, “educational radio and television” as it was once called, had a place and filled a niche that commercial broadcasters and media did not.  They provided educational programming and entertainment (like classical or jazz and other music other than the standard pop, rock, and country, and British comedies and documentaries), and sometimes they provided more local public affairs and even weather and the like.  To “remain independent” they eschewed advertising and depended on listeners to donate money.  But then, Congress and the legislatures got involved, and started providing welfare, usually in the form of matching grants and long-term, low-interest loans.  And the welfare state expanded: a welfare system designed to subtly pay off the middle and lower-upper class (because the working class, and underclass, frankly don’t listen to what public radio provides or watch what public or educational TV offers).

But their main reason for existence went away with the dawning of the age of the internet, where I can watch a thousand educational videos on YouTube from a variety of mostly uncensored sources, public and private, and NOT just what a bureaucrat in Brookings decides can go on 168 hours a week of broadcast time.  And listen to a thousand different sources of music and drama and comedy of all kinds, from Reggae to Baroque to Opera to REAL Country-western Music to Space music, with or without advertising.  Yes, it costs $30 or even $50 a month (I’m not talking about cable television, either), but it seems even the poor are able to afford that these days.  And while the public radio and television were not influenced by local or national advertisers, they are instead CONTROLLED by the biggest and nastiest advertiser in the world, the FedGov.  Because of the strings attached to the money, yes.  But also because most of the people involved with public broadcasting today are the most Tranzi of progressives and neo-liberals.  (If you think 3 hours of Rush or Sean or Glenn is disgusting, try listening to an hour of Ed Schultz or Democracy Today or Garrison Keillor’s latest incarnation.)

If there truly is a niche for what public radio and television have become in 2017, that niche will still exist withOUT the Federal (or state, or local) subsidies. When they truly have to depend on their supporters; individuals, families, businesses, to support them either by donating money or sponsoring programs. 0r – gasp – by running advertisements on their stations.  If you TRULY support SDPB and its kind, ignore this email from Mr. Howlett and send a check for $20 or $120 or whatever directly to the local public radio station.  And with that, tell them to stop accepting federal and state money stolen from taxpayers, and given to the station with all the strings attached.

Enough is enough.

Mama’s Note: The same hysteria is also striking the “art” world, with many loudly screaming that the government just CAN’T stop supporting art and artists! Never mind that the “cuts” are minimal, of course. Just as with radio and TV, government use of stolen goods to pay  artists and for various “art” for public buildings, etc., is full of the same fraud and poor choices. The only real answer is, of course, a true free market. A few minor cuts such as Trump has given us are welcome, but do nothing to eliminate the problems.

About tpolnathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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2 Responses to Whinging or soliciting help? The pitiful state of public broadcasting

  1. tpolnathan says:

    Darkwing, I think that is officially the case in almost all states: SDPB is headquartered in Brookings and not in Pierre because Brookings is the home of SDSU. Colorado is an exception to that: CPB is an “independent” government-owned “nonprofit.” Utah actually has TWO “competing” public broadcasting systems, one run by USU and the other by the U of U. (It gives, I suppose, a false sense of competition.) But the state university and college systems are nothing more than branches of government: guvmint-owned and theft-funded institutions designed to brainwash and produce “good citizens” (what the Brits and Canadians call “good subjects”). While some states (like Colorado) have so-called “independent” public radio and/or TV stations run by various colleges or universities, those are still almost always state schools. And as far as I know, ALL of these “public broadcasting” systems are loyal to CPB and NPR and pushing for not less, but MORE stolen taxpayer money to fund their operations.

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  2. Darkwing says:

    Public TV here in North Carolina is part of the state college system, so it is a state run outfit, with state health care and state retirement. Twice a year they have a fund raising week. I will never understand why government is always funding private org and businesses.

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