Monday, March 15, 2010
Extreme Makeover: PBS Edition
Just like every good liberal, I always listen to NPR while driving in the morning. This morning I was subjected to yet another fund drive, a ritual NPR listeners and PBS watchers have probably heard hundreds of times: "Make sure you support the programs you have come to count on." Give now and make sure these programs stay on the air." Most of us give what we can, or maybe ignore it altogether and turn the dial. These fund drives seem to occur more often now, indicating that maybe they are not raising the money they should. I believe this indicates PBS really just doesn't work anymore. PBS should be dismantled or given a major overhaul.
Now, my statements might seem extreme. I do enjoy NPR and I will occasionally watch PBS, usually one of their documentaries. However, PBS/NPR operates under a business model that doesn't seem serviceable for 21st century. In 2010, the majority of Americans already pay for TV. People in my area pay somewhere between $50-$100 a month for cable. If the majority of Americans are already shelling out money for TV, how can a station justify asking people to shell out an additional $100-$200 a year? That's like going to a buffet and paying a flat fee to eat but then having to shell out an additional $5 for the shrimp cocktail.
Radio is not much better. Standard radio signals seem to be going the way of analog TV: Sirius and XM are becoming more popular, basically people now pay for radio as well. The NPR audience is shrinking and now seems like a boutique item for the liberal few.
The truth is, while PBS does put out quality programming, it is not necessarily something so unique that can not be seen on another channel. A channel that is already paid for by the audience. The other issue is that "public" TV is no longer that, it doesn't really represent a wide swath of American values. PBS/NPR often puppets the views of the majority of its donors: liberal college-educated professionals. While I am part of that group, I also recognize the bias of having such a small group of people control the content.
A solution might be to stop government funding of PBS and make it into a cable channel. Another maybe to dismantle PBS altogether and disperse the programs. Either way, these fund drives should become a thing of the past.