I love PBS Hawai’i. The Public Broadcasting station runs local documentaries and community affairs that you can’t find anywhere else. On PBS as a whole, Frontline provides some of the best investigative reporting anywhere. American Experience recently ran the compelling documentary The Massie Affair, which explored a little known 1931 rape trial of five innocent Hawaiians that ended in murder, racial strife and eventually began moves to make Hawai’i a U.S. state.
I love these programs, but for the good of the country, PBS needs to die. Or at least ditch federal money and supervision.
On June 23, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 284-140 to restore $100 million of the $400 million of the PBS budget—money House Republicans had tried to move elsewhere. For PBS Hawai’i, that would have meant a loss of more than $420,000, or roughly 45 percent of its entire budget.
In the Honolulu Advertiser the next day, Representative Ed Case (D, Hawai’i) called the vote “obviously a good, solid demonstration” of the American people’s desire to keep PBS as it is. His fellow Hawai’i Democratic congressman Neil Abercrombie said it “affirms the value of our Public Broadcasting System stations.”
The Republican effort to redirect funds away from PBS was bizarre. In fact, if Case and Abercrombie really took a look at what PBS is doing these days, they’d advocate that the federal government kill all the non-profit’s funding.
Republicans from Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich have tried to get rid of PBS, and they all failed. But after George W. Bush came to power in 2000, shoving all sorts of right-wing Christian neo-cons into the federal government, the Republicans got smart.
Ranting about a supposed “left-wing bias” that permeates PBS, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) chairman—and Bush appointee—Kenneth Y. Tomlinson secretly paid conservative activist Fred Mann $14,170 to monitor Bill Moyer’s Now interview progam and report back on its alleged biases. According to The New York Times, Mann was reactionary that he characterized the conservative guest Senator Chuck Hagel (R, Nebraska) as “liberal.”
Tomlinson defended his hiring of Mann, saying they were “in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations.” The move is currently under investigation.
In any case, Moyers is now off PBS. New programs involve the right-wing Wall St. Journal editorial page and conservative columnist Tucker Carlson—a man whose ideology is even older than his signature bowtie.
On the same day Case, Abercrombie and 282 other Representatives voted to restore federal PBS funding, Tomlinson hired former Republican National Committee co-chairwoman Patricia S. Harrison to be the CPB’s new president and chief executive officer.
This is what Case and Abercrombie were so desperate to save? Thanks. Now we all get to live with the consequences. MTW