19 February 2008

PBS, it's nutritious

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.


Pepper said...

To answer McGrath's question, the answer is "yes."

On the Times website, this article generated 836 reader comments in fewer than 12 hours.

Pete said...

Great post and great article. Here's the rub. The be all and end all of America is the power of the free market. It is what has allowed our country to become the great powerhouse it is today (well, that and insane geographical advantage). If PBS's viewership doesn't justify it's funding, the funding will be reduced. If the population would rather watch Real Housewives of Orange County and I Love New York, well, that's that.
All great civilizations must come to an end and apathy and ignorance are generally a few of the larger factors involved in those downfalls. The end of PBS could spell the beginning of the end of the United States of America. How's that for jumping to conclusions without sufficient supporting evidence?

PS- I am thinking of moving to Canada. Canada rocks. Except for hockey. Hockey does not rock.

Minna said...
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Minna said...

The be all and end all of America's free market, however, is choice. Removing the PBS option further flattens the country's communications media landscape and puts in danger of collapsing in on itself from the combined weight of all the crap out there. I love Bravo, but I also loved it when it showed nothing but Inside the Actor's Studio and Cirque du Soleil performances, i.e. when it was PBS-like. The point is - keeping alive something of legitimate value, even if it runs at a deficit, is a worthwhile investment for the government (think NY's subway system), the philanthropic sector, and the public ("viewers like you"!!)