I've grown up on PBS - Sesame Street, The New Yankee Workshop, and Yan Can Cook. So it was without hesitation, when Jim Lehrer of The News Hour asked me to check out a New York Times article calling into question the relevance of PBS and The News Hour, that I went to the Times website to read. I don't think the author, Charles McGrath, was a viewer of 321 Contact or Reading Rainbow, and I'd like to unleash Oscar the Grouch on him to distribute a tighten up smack down for his view. The article gives props to NPR, which is good, but it attacks a strawman PBS without mentioning, among other things, programs like Frontline and the children's programming. Read it: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/arts/television/17mcgr.html
On the serious side, PBS provides nuance in an increasingly polarized world. Its news and current affairs programs are not about truth or righteousness but about discussion and examination. These values are antithetical to a conservative temperament or modern examples of entertainment, both of which have left the U.S. culturally and politically stagnant. PBS is a conduit of world opinion and culture, as well as a mirror of our own culture; it is sad that many people no longer care to see this reflection. PBS is worth funding because it is a reasoned and contemplative alternative to what's been created by free market mass media, media producing content driven by efficiency (reality TV), shock appeals (context-less sex and violence), and divisiveness (cable news).
Although funding for PBS has been cut over the past decade, it still packs punch and has relevance. My advice to Mr. McGrath at the Times: Turn off Flavor of Love, tighten up, click on PBS, and watch Norm Abram use his skills to build an Adirondack chair.