In the interest of truth in packaging, it is worth noting that Lawrence
Jarvik was one of the people who testified at the House committee in opposition
to continuing the funding of PBS. To my knowledge, no pro-PBS media scholars
were asked or allowed to testify. I wonder, then, why, having had his
say to his buddies on the committee, he is so eager to shut down discussion
here. I would also like to hear Mr. Jarvik defend his position in this
context where it might be meaningfully challenged by others who might have
looked closely at public television.
For myself, I claim no special expertise, and as a fan of popular television,
do find some of the arguments advanced for the specialness of PBS to be
more than a little elitist, to use a loaded term in this debate. On the
other hand, I was horrified, as someone who happened to be in DC and so
sat through the hearings, to see something defend the four networks as
providing sufficient diversity to satisfy any taste and then suggest that if
people want more they should rent videos (no doubt from Blockbuster, where
diversity'r'us) or watch cable. I call this the "Let Them Eat Cable" response
that seems typical of the current Congress. It's critics like this that are
making me a public ally of PBS!
But, I would caution my academic friends -- if we get all worked up over
NEA or PBS or NEH, aren't we allowing ourselves to be distracted from the
key fights which involve the total restructuring of the government and the
end of wellfare as we know it. I worry a bit more about teen mothers who lack
a means to support their family than I do English professors at elite
institutions who have to look
elsewhere for grants. Newt has done a brillant job of creating a diversion
at the time when thinking leftists out to be engaged in the big fight.
I wonder, however, if it isn't a miscalculation. PBS seems to me to be
one of the great middle class entitlement programs. If you ask the average
tax payer what they personally get of benefit from their government, many of
them would list PBS alongside the National Parks, the highways, national
defense, and public education. At a time when the two parties are courting
the middle class, it seems a misstep to talk of "zeroing out" PBS.
Now I've given everyone a reason to be irritated with me. I suppose it's time