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John Wayne's Holster: Bert & Ernie Should Get A Job
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bert & Ernie Should Get A Job

The House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that would reduce funding for public broadcasting by 25%. see report here Currently, the government provides the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with $400 million – about 15% of its annual budget.

Opponents of the spending cuts see them as a politically motivated move by the Republican-controlled Congress to silence CPB programming – due to its perceived liberal bias. Supporters, on the other hand, see the cuts as a means of reducing discretionary spending (federal budget deficit for FY 2005 is estimated to be $350 billion). On the surface, it would seem that both sides are correct in their assessments; however, the issue goes much deeper than that.

Conservatives, in general, are fundamentally opposed to any federally-funded support of public broadcasting. The thesis of their argument rests on the enumerated powers clause in Article I on the Constitution. Accordingly, the funding of CPB (or any other corporation) it is manifestly unconstitutional. I think Thomas Jefferson (Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty) said it best when he stated, "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical."

The Left will concede that the subsidizing of corporations is NOT enumerated to the federal government by the Constitution. They justify such funding under the so-called “broad discretionary powers” illegitimately granted to Congress by the courts. However, in defining the public good in this manner, Congress is acting to define its own powers, thus superseding the Constitution. I guess for the CPB, the end justifies the means.

Now to the money! Advocates of public broadcasting claim that the federal contribution to their budget is vital to their survival. I say poppycock! For starters, the government entitlements account for less that 15% of its annual budget. The other 85% comes from private memberships and generous corporate underwriting, among other sources.

Why can’t the CPB raise the rest of the money they need to operate from other public sources? To tell the truth, they can! But they prefer not to. As an illustration of this point, consider the following! Bell Atlantic chairman Ray Smith offered to help Congress find alternate funding sources in the public sector to replace federal funds. The CPB said no thank you. Further, when Jones Intercable offered to take over programming, the CPB again responded with a no thank you. These rebuffs by CPB over alternate funding demonstrate that their seemingly indispensable requirement for federal funds does not rest on financial grounds after all, but rather on principles. I guess commerce is not the type of thing aristocrats soil their hands with.

Truth be told, CPB has multiple funding options available to it that are more than sufficient to replace all the federal funds it currently receives. For example, they could switch to market-based funding and compete like other stations. Some have expressed the concern that this could lead to an erosion of programming quality. Perhaps this is a legitimate concern; however, I don’t believe it is well-founded. CPB is not being asked to fund its entire budget in this manner – only 15%. If one is not convinced by this argument, they could scrap the idea of market-based funding altogether. Other options are to ask members to increase their contributions. Liberal Hollywood elites who are so fond of public broadcasting could also chip in. Corporate underwriters such as the Rockefeller, Ford and MacArthur Foundations could increase their funding as well.

CPB apostles should also take a look in the mirror for another source of revenue. Public television shows such as Sesame Street are cash cows. Sesame Street alone licenses over 5,000 products that generate between $800 million to $1 billion in annual revenue! Other shows such as Arthur, Dragontales, and Clifford the Big Red Dog also market numerous products that rake in $100's of millions. There is no excuse for CPB’s refusal to draw-up licencing deals with these programs (which essentially receive free advertising) to generate the revenue to replace government funding?

It's time to stop forcing taxpayers to foot public television's bills. It’s time Bert & Ernie got a job!


At 12:56 AM, Anonymous said...

i have been listening to NPR's stories regarding this issue and they never mentioned the revenues. thank you for an insightful view into this topic!

At 1:46 AM, Anonymous Merve said...

At 6:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buttttttttt Joeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, Big Bird taught me everything I know about everything. sigh sigh!!!!!
PLUS, we will be subjected to yet another week of the Pledge Week on NPR. AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHHHH NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I say, to hell with government and the military and trash removal and education and social issues and medicare and all of the other funded issues. Give me Bert & Ernie and Oscar.
Your loving, and very mature aunt Be

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous brad said...

let's be honest, this isn't about money. the homophobic Republicans are really upset that generations of children have grown-up watching a gay couple stuck in the 70's whine and bitch over the daily struggles of life for the last 30 years. really the sf gay caucus should be the one's with their panties in a bunch. really, how many gay men would be that out-of-style, especially on tv.

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Hey Brad

Are Bert & Ernie gay? I've heard the rumors, but I thought they were just good friends.

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Roy said...

There is no logical argument for allowing these shows to market there product with tax dollars. It is way past time for PBS to enter the real world and yes get a job.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Bert & Ernie are not gay. They are just good friends.
It is Big Bird and Snuffy that are gay.
Jeez! you guys always get it wrong.


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