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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Who Pays the Piper

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So, there I was yesterday, poking along through the doldrums of my working life, when I got an email from (It's gotten to where you can't sign one petition without being inundated with email. I've got John Kerry and Ted Kennedy already stalking me. Now I've got this bunch.) Apparently, a recommendation has been forwarded from a House subcommittee to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and to eliminate Federal funding entirely in what they call "the out years." This can be verified by actual news articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Center for Digital Democracy--whatever the hell that is. MoveOn has a petition to sign, of course.

I actually clicked on the petition link, but couldn't bring myself to click "Submit." I couldn't think of a comment. And the reason is this: I am conflicted about the whole issue of government funding for arts and media.

Now, let me start out by saying that I am not against public broadcasting. Even though they are a bunch of left-wing freaks. (Just a joke. As far as I know, they're a fine bunch of guys and gals, all as mainstream as the Mississippi.) I don't think the cuts are justified monetarily, not since merely cutting three or four of the Pentagon's more outlandish weapons systems would provide funding for the entire domestic budget as it is. No, it's not about politics and money. It's about money and politics.

As has been demonstrated repeatedly since the current Republican insurgency took control of most of the government in 1992, who pays the piper calls the tune. Since public broadcasting is dependent on Federal funding like a junkie is on smack or like I am on snack cakes, the tenor of broadcasts can be altered not by the withholding of funds but by the threat of withholding funds. And before you know it, you're watching The Newshour with Jim Lehrer and Adolf Hitler, and there's a contract out on Buster Bunny's head.

Republicans understand money and its uses. They know how you can make people dance like monkeys at the end of an organ grinder's chain for the sake of a few dollars. They know how to use it to entice and how to withhold it as a strongarm tactic. Republican leaders like to study the tactics invented by Hitler and Goebbels, always taking time to point out what bad men they were, but praising their innovations and methods. They've studied propaganda and are familiar with its practices.

The funny thing is that public broadcasting still has to resort to all kinds of begging and pleading in order to stay on the air. It has its beg-a-thons and is all too often reduced to shilling for corporations. It stands on a street corner with a cupful of pencils hoping for the kindness of strangers. Whether it remains on the Federal dole or not will not alter that.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Public broadcasting reaches into sparsely populated communities where Clear Channel and Comcast dare not tread. But can it continue to accept government funds and still remain anything other than the official state media? I don't know.

But I'll leave you with a prediction: The recommendation of that subcommittee will end up shelved once everything gets to a final appropriations bill--and after PBS and NPR have made some sort of concessions concerning content.


arthist99 said...

Unfortunately, money initially given by the government in order to maintain those valuable things that the general population doesn't appreciate at the moment, often becomes money that is intended to dictate how those valuable things are used/interpreted/viewed/heard and what their content consists of. This holds true for the arts, as well as things such as our national parks. I dislike greatly that our national treasures must bow to the ass who is our current dictator, excuse me, president in order to maintain their existence due to so much apathy from a public that cares much more about who Lindsay Lohan is dating or what clothes Beyonce has on. I support these grants to NPR and PBS, as I do the National Park System, mainly because I know if left solely to the generosity of the current Americans, all would be mutilated, wasted, and destroyed.
Just my six pence.

Len said...

As a taxpayer, I like having a nickel or so of the thousands I put into the government's coffers going to public broadcasting and national parks. (My thoughts on arts funding are more complicated--and I'm more dead set against it.0

I wish there was a way to depoliticize the funding. A way to keep Congress from using it as a propaganda tool.

And, by the way, Mr Bush is a dictator, has been since 9/11, and understands this to be his role.

Len said...

When it comes to funding for the arts, my question is this: Can someone point me to a great work of art that has been created thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts? It seems to me that great artists actually gravitate toward the marketplace, which is a venue in which great art tends to do very well.

Anonymous said...

Around here, the radical lefterners constantly whine to the community radio station to get NPR news off the air because it is just a shadow shill for evil corporations. They apparently are trying to sneak this past us by making hourly announcements that the news is being "underwritten" (ironic as the news often sounds overwritten)by "the US Plus Corporation and the Annie F. Casey Stengle Foundation" or whoever the hell it is. Very sly, the bastards. Now me, I like the NPR neutral news and I want the government to pay for it so I don't have to listen to commercials. I mostly ignore the portion of the news where they cite the number of people killed and where the bodies lie, let us know that Michael Jackson has been determined to be perfectly normal and then give stock quotes. That part is just wallpaper. What I like is the story about the guy who rides around on his bike recording bird songs. Or the story about the woman who has created a great work of art, thanks to funding from the NEA. They have great production quality too, with cool stories from around the world. That's what I'd like my taxes to pay for. I have noticed that the musical interludes are getting longer. Did somebody get laid off? I don't care what clothes Beyonce has off but I do think I have totally lost track of my point, if I had one. Oh yeah, I like bird sounds.

R. Bitter Oftaste

Len said...

I've been thinking about this, and I might favor a plan in which companies that own more than one radio or television station were assessed fees that went into a fund that was distributed to all the public radio and television stations probably based on the size of the media market that they are in. Maybe not. Maybe everybody gets the same slice of the pie.

That would take public broadcasting out of the annual appropriations bill and depoliticize the funding process. Whatcha think?

Thomas said...

Citizens of a country have one or both of two sources through which to get info & entertainment: media outlets owned by and sponsored by corporations, and media outlets funded and run by the government. In Amerika, there is a third: media outlets funded by but not exactly run by the government. Therein lies the rub: BushCo wants to cut off CPB/NPR precisely because they don't control it and don't agree with what it sees as its advancement of a liberal agenda at odds with BushCo's conservative interests. Interestingly, the funding CPB/NPR gets from both taxes collected by the govt as well as private endowments still isn't enough to cover expenses, which is why they have to run those annoying but necessary pledge drives. If BushCo is successful in cutting off CPB/NPR govt funding, then to stay afloat CPB/NPR will need (a) more private endowments, (b) more money from pledge drives, and/or - shudder - they will have to take on corporate sponsors. They've already done the latter, though it's presented in a discrete form - but without sufficient government funding and private endowments, CPB/NPR will be forced to become a commercial enterprise to survive, and to me that brings it in line with the whole ABC/NBC/CBS/Viacom/Infinity/ClearChannel/etc behemoth. To me, having nothing but capitalist-driven profit-motive media outlets is just as sad a state of affairs as having nothing but government-run media outlets. (Of course, as incestuous a relationship as there is between big biz and big govt, a case could be made that there is no difference ... but that is a line of thought I will leave to other, more adventurous souls.)