Killing Elmo and Big Bird

The latest salvo in the cultural deterioration of America comes with an attack on CPB, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its primary operations the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). The value of public media, supported by both public and private funds, has been a constant source of quality programs since it was created by an act of Congress in 1967. It has provided an excellent return on the federal dollars invested.

The effort to cut Public Broadcasting spending is not a new one. It seems this is a common theme whenever a Republican holds the Speaker of the House chair. Republicans would argue they are the party of fiscal responsibility (and deficit reduction) but the latest budget proposed by President Trump decisively puts that to rest.

Here’s a quote from 2012 when a previous effort reared its ugly head in Congress.

Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 4, 2012

The percentage of the federal budget paid to PBS since then has decreased.

In 2017 that amount was $450 million out of a $4.147 trillion ($4,147,000,000,000) dollar budget, or 0.0018%.

What do Americans think about PBS and NPR?

Here’s a couple of interesting 2017 polls to go along with the one President Trump recently touted showing his rise in popularity. (Here’s the link to those political polls although Mr. Trump was a bit selective in his choice of which poll to highlight.


In the latest poll of voters regarding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and its affiliate entity NPR) they overwhelming supported federal funding.



In a poll conducted on the public trust of information sources, the results showed a significant pbstrustlevel of confidence in PBS with the closest media competitor 18% behind. (Interestingly enough PBS is 30% ahead of Congress and the Federal Government.)

And last but not least, in a poll of parents of children under eighteen, PBS exponentially exceeded a host of other for-profit channels in educational values.1-pbskidstrust





All of this begs the question, in light of the dismal performance of most other media outlets and the federal government itself, why would the President seek to silence such an organization?

While I applaud any reductions in Federal spending when waste is identified, the Federal contribution to PBS doesn’t amount to a rounding error in the proposed $4.1 trillion ($4,100,000,000,000) dollar federal budget. I would think a quick walk through the halls of Congress could find much more meaningful savings.

The budget benefit realized from such cuts is barely a couple of bricks in the Muro de la Vergüenza Mexicano. Maybe we can get Mexico to kick in the $450 million and call it even?

If the budget benefit is so low, and support of PBS is so high among American voters, why the rush to cut the funding?

Like Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is often the correct one. A reasonable conclusion is that something simple, and infinitely more sinister, may be afoot. Perhaps it is the very confidence and trust in PBS by a significant majority of the American public that concerns the President.

Fake news doesn’t thrive when one eliminates unrestrained private control of the media and curbs their power to censor or edit the news. Publicly-funded resources like PBS and NPR provide a check and balance to the for-profit media. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting offers the best return on federal dollars invested for non-partisan, trustworthy media programming. Not just in my opinion but the opinions of a significant majority of American voters.

The press in this country must be free and unfettered.  One cannot, and should not, look to the motive behind the offerings of media outlets or seek to silence those who may embrace one philosophy over another. FOX and CNN may offer diametrically opposed views of the same story, but the truth is somewhere in the middle if you use common sense.

An informed and intelligent public should be trusted to find substance hidden in propaganda.

However, in the world of social media, where anyone with a keyboard and access to the web can post “news” stories, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a wise investment of federal money. Investing in a trusted source of information, by allowing it to be independent of commercial pressures, is money well spent.

We can hope the more rational Republicans in Congress will see fit to derail this effort.

ElmoPlease, Mr. President, don’t kill Elmo and Big Bird.







(Special thanks to Jon Parker for giving me the idea, if not the tone, for this topic.  One of those unintended consequences I suspect. Click here to contribute to NPR and PBS. And be sure to thank Jon on Facebook for his thoughtfulness.)


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