25. PUBLIC LOSES BROADCASTING SYSTEM -- PBS GOES
Since 1961, the American taxpayer has spent more than $2.3 billion
for the development of a public broadcasting system that would provide
a non-commercial educational and community television resource. Hundreds
of millions more were contributed by individuals to local PBS stations
for the same goal.
But, in 1980, that system was quietly being converted from a public
service into a profit-making operation and the taxpayers weren't told
it was happening.
Across the board, the top dozen public television stations, all "community"
type licensees, were seeking to exempt themselves from government and
community accountability and turning the concept of public broadcasting
into a commercial scheme of money-making and profit.
While the wealthiest public stations were accepting membership donations
and government money on the pretext of non-commercial broadcasting "in
the public interest," at the same time, in closed door meetings,
in violation of state and federal law, they were diverting public tax
dollars into profit-oriented schemes. These schemes include ventures
into advertising, publishing, syndication of commercial programs, pay-TV,
and leasing facilities and high technology hardware for commercial productions.
Not only are these ventures contradictory to the concept of public
broadcasting, and in violation of the conditions under which the licenses
were granted, they compromise the executives of public television in
a potential conflict of interest.
Like the commercial networks, these stations pursue big-money sponsors
and seek mass audiences and ratings. In return, they offer safe upscale
programming. News and public affairs programs are being eliminated and
minority viewpoints for their communities totally neglected.
The stations plead a lack of funds which they say must be supplemented
from private sources. The reality appears that they seek the autonomy
that these sources provide. Their ultimate goal is independence from
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which regulates them, the communities
they are licensed to serve, and the public that has paid for them.
The eighth "best censored" story of 1979 revealed how the
Public Broadcasting Service had become the handmaiden of major oil corporations
and how controversial subjects increasingly were being censored on PBS.
Now the failure of the media to inform the public that it is losing
the public broadcasting system it already has paid for qualifies this
story for nomination as one of the "best censored" stories
In These Times, Dec. 17-23, 1980, "The new business of PBS is
business," by Pat Aufderheide; Committee to SAVE KQED news release,
Nov. 10, 1980, and other correspondence.