Friday, March 11, 2011

Requiem for a Network

     Monday’s release of the devastating tape of Ron Schiller, former chief fundraiser for National Public Radio, has permanently discredited any claim that the network pursues a neutral, balanced approach to journalism. It will probably also kill future federal funding. Although the scandal has not directly touched the Public Broadcasting Service, PBS is likely to be unplugged from the federal money grid along with NPR. This seems a shame, because of the two, PBS retains more of the old excellence than NPR.

     Tune in to NPR now and you’re likely to hear a piece about prisoners making “art” from trash. This is the victory of political correctness over æsthetics. You are equally likely to hear a piece about the plight of someone or other. The ultimate moral high ground for the NPR Leftist now seems to be victim status. As for the old high culture, it is now abandoned. You are not likely to hear about a classical music event unless there is a way of tying it to “diversity.” After all, that music was all produced by white men from Europe.

     On PBS there is still the McLaughlin Group—not the reasoned debate of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, but conservative voices are heard. The Nightly Business Report remains data-driven, though without the wit of Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street Week. Certainly, the science programming is still better than anything on cable. Thoughtful citizens may pause at the prospect of the United States abandoning public support for PBS, which once brought us Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, the American heir to the BBC’s wonderful series like Bronowski’s Ascent of Man and Clark’s Civilisation. PBS was the home of Firing Line, the touchstone of political affairs programming. Would it not be at least uncivilized to abandon public support for a network with such a history? Even if PBS has fallen from its early heights, it is a bit sad to contemplate it going down the same drain as NPR.

     On the other hand, both NPR and PBS will probably survive in some form. Once freed from whatever mild restraints NPR may still have felt as a public network, it could very well give in to its Leftist tendencies and become more brazen in opposing the conservative philosophy. With enough support from wealthy Leftists, it might even retain its non-profit status. Likewise, PBS could try for a similar re-structuring, whereby it would relinquish federal funding in exchange for greater freedom. But, given the likelihood of a more openly Leftist editorial stance, both networks will surely move far away from their exalted past.

     In the end, we should not mourn for public broadcasting. It passed away long ago.

1 comment:

  1. The demise of National Politburo Radio is long overdue, in my humbly arrogant opinion. :)