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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
 
In response to Larry Jarvik's recent posts, I think the debate and discussion
about PBS is obviously proper to a list like SCREEN-L, and so are various
public calls and alerts.  One can read them, delete them and/or argue with
them, but the particular post Larry objected to seems to be prompting a
 healthy discussion.  I wouldn't object if the Heritage Foundation or
other group wanted to post a call to *in*-action.
 
As far as the funding question itself goes, there seem to be three
main lines of argument involving federal funding of PBS:
 
1. We need to cut PBS (and lots of other programs) to reduce the deficit.
2. We should cut PBS because it broadcasts material that is offensive to
a large segment of the tax-paying population.
3. It should not be a function of government to underwrite cultural activities.
 
(Obviously, I oversimplify, but I think most arguments can be reduced to
those three.)
 
In response,
1. As many have noted, funding for PBS, et al. is a drop in the cauldron--
the loose change rattling around will hardly be noticed as far as the
budget goes.
 
2. This argument should be beneath contempt.  The government pays for many
things I don't support, but I can't pick and choose.  PBS, for better or
worse, is one of the few venues on tv where left *and* right discourse gets
some airing from time to time.
 
3. This is the one stand with some intellectual grounding to it, but reason
must ask where this line of inquiry stops.  Should the government give
*any* support to *any* cultural institution.  Some economic conservatives
have called for cuts to Radio Liberty and other propaganda instruments--would
all cultural and social conservatives join that call?  What about the
Smithsonian or the Library of Congress?  And so on?  This point overlooks
the degree to which government has always been involved with promotion of
culture in one way or another and the degree of support to culture in other
putatively democratic societies.
 
 
Jajasoon and others have voiced some of the misgivings I have about PBS.
I love MYSTERY and JEEVES AND WOOSTER, but won't pretend that they extend
the state of tv art.  On the other hand, there are not too many other places
(for all the pleading that's done) where alternative documentaries,
independent video and the like can have at least some airing.
 
What I dislike about the debate is how the three basic strands are constantly
tangled--perhaps inevitable in a political milieu but all the more
dangerous for that.
 
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN