June 09, 2006

Congress to cut funding for...Mickey Mouse? 

The annual Congressional ritual to slash funding for public broadcasting has begun. On Wednesday the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut $115 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting budget next year, a 23 percent reduction. It was a straight party-line vote, led by Representative Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the appropriations panel. Moveon.org and others are cranking up the email lists to oppose the cuts, and I'm sure we'll be talking about it as the federal budget process progresses, if that's the correct term. Last year similar cuts by the House Appropriations Committee were firmly rejected by a bi-partisan Congressional majority after an outpouring of citizen support for public broadcasting. And for the most part support for PBS and NPR is indeed bi-partisan, which bodes well for our longevity. Public broadcasting should serve the public interests of all Americans regardless of political party, and as a producer I know we work very hard to do that. Still, it seems like someone is always trying to make partisan hay out of a supposed liberal bias in PBS and NPR programs. I'd love to talk with anyone about balance and fairness and the qualities that make for great journalism and public affairs programming. But it's harder to do this productively while being threatened and belittled. Plus, it'd be nice if our critics actually knew what they were talking about instead of simply relying on "principles." Rep. Regula reveals something interesting when he refers to our efforts to defend public broadcasting: "They'll trot out Elmo and Mickey Mouse and Lord knows who else, and I'll be out there kind of by myself." Mickey Mouse? Uh, that would be Disney. If only public broadcasting had that kind of money.

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