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February 1995, Week 1


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Gorham A Kindem <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 7 Feb 1995 16:50:12 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
In his response to me Dr. Jarvik suggests that education is
not  the  mission of PBS.  I disagree.  The Carnegie Commission
and the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 did not obliterate
the educational mission of PBS.  The Public Broadcasting Act
of 1967, which resulted from the Carnegie  Commission's efforts,
stated that Congress "finds and declares that it furthers the
general welfare  to encourage noncommercial educational radio
and television broadcast programming which will be responsive
to the interests of people both in particular localities and
throughout the United States, and which will constitute an
expression of diversity and excellence....The term 'educational
television or radio programs' means programs  which are primarily
designed for educational or cultural purposes."
     In fulfilling its mission public broadcasting has, I believe,
tried to provide alternatives to commercial programs and has
sought to fulfill its special responsibilities to certain audiences,
especially children and other groups which are not likely to be
well served by commercial broadcasting's economic imperatives.  It
has broadened its educational mission, as defined and broadened
by Congress, to included cultural as well as instructional programs.
In short, public broadcasting's educational mission was defined
quite broadly by Congress in 1967, and public broadcasting has
tried to fulfill that mission through its programming.
     Public broadcasting's current problems are at least in part a
direct result of Congress' failure to follow the recommendations
of the Carnegie Commission concerning its funding.  The Commission
recommended that $200 million in federal funds be provided annually
(in 1967 dollars), a figure which has yet to be achieved, and that
these funds would come from a tax on new TV sets made available
through a trust fund.  It noted that such a tax was not new, since
the government had levied a 10 per cent tax on TV sets between 1950
and 1965.  One Commissioner, Joseph H. McConnel, president of
Reynolds Metals, suggested in a separate concurring opinion, that
"those who are licensed to use the airwaves in the `public interest'
--the commercial television stations-- should at least share in the
cost of public television."  Needless to say, Congress did not
follow either of these recommendations, and as a result funding for
public broadcasting has remained tenuous at best and at worst a
political football which a number of conservatives and commercial
communication interests are continually trying to deflate.
     Dr. Jarvik suggests that I have an anti-capitalist bias.  The
truth is that I do not believe that either capitalism or socialism,
private enterprise or government can provide answers or solutions to
all of our problems.  Eliminating worthwhile federal support for
public broadcasting that does not even come close to the level of
support in 1967 dollars that the Carnegie Commission recommended will
create more problems than it will solve.  It is a bad idea, a
"no-brainer" as Levar Burton referred to it before Congress.  There
may be fat in the federal budget, but support for public broadcasting
is as lean as it can and should be.  It is fulfilling the educational
mission that Congress set for it as well as it can given the tenuous
nature of its federal funding.  Commercial broadcasting and cablecasting
cannot and will not fulfill its important and broad educational mission.
Gorham "Hap" Kindem
Department of Communication Studies
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill