Monday, March 21, 2011

Consider NOT Donating A Friggin' Penny To PBS!

The other day I was watching a NOVA documentary on the mating habits of wingnuts (kidding, but it might as well be true) crash of that Air France flight over the Atlantic, from Rio to Paris, when the credits started rolling and I saw in big, bold type that seemed to linger and dwell on the screen, like an evil incantation or the mark of the beast — 666 — that that program had been funded in a very LARGE part (maybe entirely) by David H. Koch. I was stunned. So I did a little research, and came upon the PBS Ombudsman's "Mailbag." Now, I'm not going to dump on the Ombudsman; it's a thankless task. He or she must justify and rationalize programming that edged up against some invisible propriety border without the power to do much of anything about it. And he's got to take a LOT of kvetching from the viewers, on top of everything else. Here's what PBS had to say about accepting the David Koch money:
A Response from NOVA Senior Executive Producer Paula Apsell:

WGBH is committed to the editorial integrity of all our programs, adhering to the strictest journalistic standards. To maintain that integrity, and the trust of our audiences, funders are prohibited from any involvement in the editorial process. NOVA, like all WGBH programs, maintains complete, independent editorial control of its content.
With all due respect, Ms. Aspell, that's not the point. Would you receive money from a rapist? Or a murderer? How about a crony capitalist, union-buster, highly partisan political contributor involved in various shady and barely legal schemes to destroy the American middle class? Would you accept money from such an individual? You may have built a firewall around your programming in which funders are "prohibited" from "any involvement in the editorial process." I've got news for you, Ms. Aspell: David H. Koch is already involved, only you're too blind to see it, or more likely, you just don't want to see that your company is in survival mode as a result of actions ruthlessly undertaken by your "funder" David H. Koch. There's no firewall that can protect your credibility.

The Ombudsman, Michael Getler (who gives me the impression he's frequently sweating bullets), added his own cheerful note:
(Ombudsman's Note: One rarely knows when or how, if at all, influence works its way. If it is a factor, it can come from outside or from within. As a viewer of what strikes me and a lot of others as a consistently first-rate program, I trust NOVA.)
This is a typical example of the Ombudsman's dilemma: When reason and logic fail, there's always blind faith to fall back on.  I wouldn't know, because I'll be watching a whole lot less of PBS.

But then, having been duly sensitized to the PBS sellout to right wing corporate America, I fired off this rant in their general direction:
I used to be a regular News Hour viewer. Still am, to some extent, because I like the other anchors, besides Jim and Judy, and the weekend wrapup with Mark Shields and David Brooks. But I must say, your coverage of politics has become so biased in favor of corporate elites, so unreal in its whitewash of what's going on in the country regarding the radical right wing Republican power grab, in all its dimensions, as to be utterly irrelevant.

I used to think Jim Lehrer was an objective anchor — the image he so carefully cultivates — until I saw his coverage of Wisconsin Gov. Walker signing the bill stripping unions of collective bargaining rights. There was something in the tone of Jim's voice that was almost gleeful, reporting Walker's Pyrrhic "victory." Then when Mark Shields rightly opined that this was a "victory" for the Democrats Jim retorted with exaggerated incredulity, for effect: "REALLY? THE DEMOCRATS?" Showed me which side of the fence he was on.

As for Judy Woodruff, it was comical to see her interview GOP governors Barbour (MS) and McDonnell (VA), taking their GOP talking points at face value (might as well interview Frank Luntz: Did you tell them to say "job killer" and "budget crisis" and what about this word, and that?) in a complete whitewash of their lies. Asked for some reason to speak on behalf of Walker and against the unions, McDonnell kept distorting the truth, insisting unions had to make financial concessions — which they did! They gave Walker everything he wanted — when the crux of it was union-busting and stripping workers of collective bargaining rights. Not a manufactured budget "crisis" in which a large portion of that budget shortfall was in tax cuts for rich people like Jim and Judy.

How can you ignore demonstrations of more than 100,000 people supporting workers' rights in Wisconsin while providing a forum for GOP governors to plug their talking points? You call yourselves journalists? And why didn't you make a more spirited defense of NPR? With all the problems confronting us, the extremist right wing Republicans in Congress call an "emergency" hearing to defund NPR — to take funding away from programs like "Car Talk" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"? You should have been taking these Republicans to task. Shame on you.

For all of your cosmetic enhancements, you have become increasingly irrelevant as a reliable news outlet. And you have the gall to ask the viewers for money, with all the economic pain that's happening outside your cloistered walls. It would be a different thing if you were actually honestly reporting the news on our behalf. You don't need, nor do you deserve, our money. The corporations are bankrolling you. And it shows.

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