Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who Are They Kidding???

There is much hand-wringing among public broadcasters these days. Public TV and radio have been hanging their hats on the 170 Million Americans website, hoping that loyal listeners and viewers will help tell our story to legislators. We’re all very busy talking positively about what our organizations do in the community and talking about the big, at-least-trying-not-to-be-biased journalistic hole NPR is filling.

But here are some of the things we’re hearing back: "If 170 million Americans rely on your service, why do you need money from the Federal government?"  "Perhaps you haven't been quite as efficient and effective in your own fundraising efforts as you could be." "This business model you’ve been using--asking for voluntary contributions--maybe it just doesn't work and it's time to find a new business model. Maybe you should just sell commercials.”  And even: “If it isn’t working, turn the public radio spectrum over to commercial broadcasters who definitely can make money there. Public broadcasters should just go online.”

In short, legislators are having none of it and we’re still squarely on the chopping block.

But…Who are these people kidding???

Public broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Humanities and Arts, and other quality of life programs that are being targeted have absolutely no bearing on the national debt. In our country they are funded at embarrassingly low levels when compared to other developed countries. And if these programs are terminated they won’t be rebuilt any time soon.

But a year’s funding for public broadcasting doesn’t amount to even one day’s expenditure for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the grand scheme of things, we public broadcasters are peanuts.

The real work of Congress is to take on the hard issues—like tax reform, defense spending for programs the military doesn’t even want, stabilizing and reviewing Medicare and Medicaid, and making sure Social Security remains funded. Unfortunately, these are the things few politicians have the guts to do. They’d rather set another, less arduous agenda.

The legislators who want to defund public broadcasting are shirking that responsibility, hiding behind a smoke screen, trying to fool the public into thinking they are doing something real.

Well, they aren’t. They just want to show that they’re cutting something—anything—without having to take the time and risk of delving into the substantive, hard issues.

It’s time for all of us—public broadcasters, artists, humanitarians and the general public—to hold our legislators accountable. Stop this nonsense and get to work on the things that matter.

Maggie Montgomery, General Manager
Northern Community Radio

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