Don’t let public media go to static!

The future of public broadcasting in the U.S. is seriously in doubt. The Republicans are trying to cut out all funds for public radio and TV, which would be devastating not only to NPR and PBS, but to WCQS, public radio for our area, and UNC-TV, public TV for our entire state.

Some argue that if the $430 million in taxpayer funds going to public radio and TV were to disappear, supporters of public broadcasting would make up the difference with voluntary contributions. They ignore the fact that for the past 40 years only one out of 10 NPR listeners and one out of 10 PBS viewers has contributed to their local stations, despite the incessant on-air requests and tedious membership drives. Why would this change if federal funds ceased?

Free enterprise zealots might argue that if public broadcasting advocates aren't willing to pay for the services, they don't deserve to exist. But private enterprise in the U.S., with all the radio and TV stations that it owns, and all the money at their disposal, has not given us anything remotely approaching the consistent quality and in-depth reporting of NPR News, nor the educational programs for children and adults of PBS. All this despite the fact that public TV and radio have never been adequately or securely funded.

It would be fine with me if Congress cut all funds to public broadcasting, as long as they voted to provide the system with adequate funding from another source. For example: the FCC could charge annual license fees for all commercial uses of the public airwaves that would be used to automatically fund some or all of the noncommercial applications.

— Fred Flaxman


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