One of the right’s perennial targets has been public television and programs that benefit the arts. They have relentlessly criticized these institutions and sought to deny them federal funding. They have even accused them of being socialist vehicles intent on indoctrinating America’s young. Now Mitt Romney joins the battle with a pledge to stop funding PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts (video below).
When Romney says that he wants to “stop certain programs…even some you like,” he is referring to programs that are of significant value to average Americans, but that he can live without because his quarter of a billion dollar net worth enables him to acquire whatever he wants. Romney demonstrates how pitifully out of touch he is by proposing to eliminate funding for PBS, a network that provides educational programming that is not available anywhere else, certainly not in commercial television. He is explicit in what he plans to do:
“We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m gonna stop that. I’m gonna say that PBS is gonna have to have advertisements. We’re not gonna kill Big Bird, but Big Bird’s gonna have advertisements.”
Despite his denials, killing off Big Bird is precisely what his plan would accomplish. There is a reason that commercial TV does not produce the sort of programming seen on PBS. For-profit networks have to cater to advertisers in order to stay in business. By necessity they are more concerned with generating profit than with quality programming. Take a look at tonight’s primetime schedules of the cable nets that were supposed to compete with public television:
- Bravo: 8:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 9:00pm Top Chef: Texas; 10:00pm Top Chef: Texas
- Discovery: 8:00pm Sons of Guns; 9:00pm Sons of Guns; 10:00pm Moonshiners
- Learning Channel: 8:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras; 9:00pm Cheapskates; 10:00pm Toddlers & Tiaras
That’s not exactly entertainment designed to enrich America’s children. It’s a jumble of insipid reality programs that repeat ad nauseum. It’s Real Housewives, Swamp Loggers, Hoarders, and info-mercials. If Big Bird were required to rely on advertisers for funding it would not be long before Sesame Street was just another avenue on the Jersey Shore.
That’s the free market model for public broadcasting that Romney and the right advocate. It’s a model that would replace Bert and Ernie with Kim and Chloe. Is that really the example we want to set for our kids?