The Corporation For Propaganda Broadcasting

Can the propaganda machine get any more obvious?

A former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee is the leading candidate to take over the agency that funds public broadcasting, sparking new concerns among broadcasters about conservative influence over National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service programming.

Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a high-ranking official at the State Department, is one of two candidates for the top job at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and is the favored candidate of the CPB’s chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson…

Tomlinson, a longtime Republican, is the current chairman of CPB and has already taken overtly partisan steps to remake the organization as a publicly financed Fox News. He recruited conservative pundit, Tucker Carlson, and Wall Street Journal editorial page editor, Paul Gigot to host their own shows. He also engaged in ethically-questionable tactics to discredit Bill Moyers, former host of PBS’ Now.

As for Harrison, she has worked as a fund raiser for Republican candidates, including Bush. She also praised the work of the State Department’s Office of Broadcasting Services, which was behind the production of the kind of video news releases that the General Accounting office ruled was illegal propaganda.

Aside from Tomlinson, the CPB board is now dominated by Republicans, and the possibility of averting a complete meltdown to right-wing hackery is frighteningly remote. In addition to the NeoCon coup at CPB, a House subcommittee voted yesterday to reduce funding for PBS by 25%. The strategy is clear: Starve the beast to weaken it, then put a yoke around its neck.

It may be time for the 41% of Americans who rank PBS as the most trusted source for news to cease to rely on the CPB as a funding source for PBS. Perhaps its time for public funding that is actually accountable to the public. If we value free expression and principled journalism, maybe we need to set up our own mechanism for providing it.

I propose we explore the formation of a public/private partnership to raise funds for PBS programming that is untainted by political bias. This group would have clearly defined bylaws that would prevent any mischief by partisans. If it were successful enough, it could free PBS from the control of those who recently tried to censor such dangerous programs as The Teletubbies and Postcards From Buster.

The downside to this is that its success would fuel further attempts by the GOP to eliminate CPB funding entirely. They would point to this effort as evidence that tax money isn’t needed to pay for PBS. I submit that they are going down that road anyway. To the extent that they do not, they will muscle in their own philosophical imprint, which would result in more harm than good. Consequently, I don’t believe we have anything to lose. There may even be a long-shot benefit as a result of publicity that would motivate the public to demand a return to unmediated public funding.

Previous attempts were made to castrate PBS by arguing that cable would obviate the need for tax-payer funding, citing networks like Bravo and Discovery. These networks are now better known for Queer Eye and American Chopper than for true quality, public interest programming.There is no alternative to public television and the loss of it would be incalculable. We need to take it into our own hands to save it, and we need to start now.