Apparently unable to make a go of it on taxpayer handouts and contributions from “viewers like you,” PBS now has advertising. Of course, at PBS, these intrusions from the vulgar world of commercial transactions are called “sponsorship” messages. I hope they make a go of it, but I begrudge them every taxpayer dime.
And, if you read David Boaz’s excellent piece (“Why PBS Is a Public Menace”) in today’s New York Post, you will realize that public broadcasting has something to offer a prospective advertiser:
In 2003, NPR told potential advertisers that “compared with the general public, NPR listeners are 55 percent less likely to have a household income below $30,000 . . . 152 percent more likely to have a home valued at $500,000 or more and 194 percent more likely to travel to France.” And PBS viewers were 98 percent more likely to be a CEO and 315 percent more likely to have stocks valued at $75,000 or more.
Sponsors know this. The most prominent of the new online advertisers is Goldman Sachs, which knows where to find a wealthy and influential audience.
I’m like Boaz in that I loved “Downton Abbey” and enjoy many of the shows on PBS, but I just don’t see any reason for the taxpayer to foot the bill. It is unfair for ordinary taxpayers to susidize the tastes of the public broadcasting audience. It is a misunderstanding of what government should do. But that’s not all. Boaz makes another compelling point about why taxpayers should not be stuck with any part of public broadcasting’s bill:
The main point here isn’t the money, it’s the separation of news and state. If anything should be kept separate from government and politics, it’s the news and public-affairs programming that informs Americans about government and its policies. When government brings us the news — with all the inevitable bias and spin — it is putting its thumb on the scales of democracy.
A healthy democracy needs a free and diverse press — but Americans today have access to more sources of news and opinion than ever before: more broadcast networks than before, cable networks, satellite TV and radio, the Internet. Any diversity argument for NPR and PBS is now a sad joke.
We don’t need a government news and opinion network. More important, we shouldn’t require taxpayers to pay for broadcasting that will inevitably reflect a particular perspective on politics and culture. The marketplace of democracy should be a free market, in which the voices of citizens are heard, with no unfair advantage granted by government to one participant.
And there is no need for us to support public broadcasting:
PBS used to ask, “If not PBS, then who?” The answer now is: HBO, Bravo, Discovery, History, History International, Science, Planet Green, Sundance, Military, C-SPAN 1/2/3 and many more.