PBS is a government subsidy for obnoxious, deep-pocketed progressives and a jobs program for liberal journalists. But the New York Times' story targeting Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, suggests that the left is losing its grip on PBS and getting pretty worried about it. The Times story -- titled "Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases" -- reads like a press release from the office of Bill Moyers.
In the first paragraph, the Times says that "some public broadcasting leaders" -- read entrenched liberals upset with Tomlinson for scrutinizing their long-unchallenged perks and propaganda powers -- object that "his actions pose a threat to editorial independence." Editorial independence -- how's that for a euphemism? The Times likes that grand phrase, especially as it sounds a lot better than taxpayer-financed liberal monopoly.
Anytime a liberal government monopoly is challenged the mainstream media depict the figure challenging it as "political" while the engineers of the monopoly are merely "independent." The Times story proceeds on this sham premise. For example, Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive of PBS, is treated by the Times as a disinterested critic of Tomlinson, saying very primly that "I think there have been instances of attempts to influence content from a political perspective that I do not consider appropriate."
As opposed to your leftist political perspective, Ms. Mitchell? Mitchell is a liberal environmentalist and Jane Fonda crony who cut her tendentious teeth as a documentarian for Ted Turner. But you would never know that from this Times story. The implication of Mitchell's remark is that Tomlinson is putting the kibosh on apolitical content. Turn on PBS and you will quickly see what the liberals who run it consider apolitical and editorially independent.
PBS's idea of editorially independent content is "Postcards from Buster," a cartoon Mitchell aired until controversy ensued earlier this year that depicted a third-grade rabbit named Buster visiting Vermont (evidently post-Howard Dean and his same-sex civil unions legislation) for the spring maple harvest, during which Buster learns a lesson or two about enlightened family composition by staying with a lesbian couple and their children. Or was Mitchell referring to that apolitical bastion of editorial neutrality, Bill Moyers, whose evenhanded news reporting on PBS includes saying that George Bush will "force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives"?
Influencing content from a political perspective, namely, leftism, is PBS's specialty. Yet the Times makes Tomlinson's utterly reasonable attempts to bring a little balance to this nonsense sound sinister, reporting, "Without the knowledge of his board, the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, contracted last year with an outside consultant to keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, 'Now With Bill Moyers.'" So? It is about time. You would need an outside consultant for that job as nobody on the board or inside the PBS building is up to the task of monitoring Moyers.
He has gotten rich off supping at the public trough, treating PBS as his personal fiefdom (in part because he filled his friend Lyndon B. Johnson's head with the bad idea for PBS) while violating the law mandating balance that set it up years ago. Tomlinson is simply doing what Moyers' enablers won't do. The outrage isn't that Moyers was under review but that he is still on the air, using taxpayers' money to insult them and their views.
That liberals view PBS as their personal playhouse is seen in the hysterical reaction of PBS staffers to Tomlinson's mild programming suggestions, which resulted in Tucker Carlson getting a show and "The Journal Editorial Report," hosted by Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal. Pat Mitchell who pushed these shows through for diplomatic reasons is so defensive about PBS's naked liberal bias she won't even acknowledge that these tentative steps toward balance represent a correction of PBS's prejudices. "You're assuming we're doing this to balance something," she rebuked a reporter a while back.
The Times's report is an attempt to scare Tomlinson off further reform. It reflects pouting at PBS and fear that its liberal monopoly may crack up. Tomlinson should keep going with his reforms and ask the public to join him. Most Americans don't realize how much destructive journalism and programming their tax dollars have financed. At a time of severe deficits no less, the American people are expected to pay for programming that corrupts their children, for documentaries that seek to understand this or that anti-American menace, domestic or external (PBS is always good for a retrospective on Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, the Black Panthers, 1960s rabble, etc.), and for a diet of Darwinism via nature documentaries. Even its most innocuous programming seems absurd at this point, given the glut of cable channels containing PBS-like content. Do the American people need to pay higher taxes for the privilege of watching Yanni or listening to Suze Orman harangue them about inept investment strategies?
Since the Republicans don't have the stomach to tackle PBS again, the American people need Kenneth Tomlinson to pry the liberals' fingers off it. The more effective he is in this task, the more distressed headlines from the aggrieved ruling class's newspaper of record will come.