We were greatly amused by the call last week from a coalition of "consumer" and "public interest" groups to "protect public broadcasting from politically motivated bureaucrats and lawmakers." They’re especially anguished about political string-pulling on the Public Broadcasting System, which feeds at the federal trough.
In a press release on Thursday, groups including the "Free Press," Consumers Union, Common Cause and the Consumer Federation of America called for public hearings in every community across America to find out "exactly what the people want."
If this exercise in asininity is actually carried out, what these groups will find out is exactly what everyone in this country who hasn’t been living under a rock already knows: What "the people want" spans the spectrum from the far left to the far right, and includes some uncharted and rather spooky regions of the political universe as well.
What these groups are really saying is that they don’t like the conservative influence of a Republican Congress and a Republican president on their tax-supported media pet, PBS. They want it to remain "pristine" — that is, liberal.
But expecting government-owned media to be free of political bias is like demanding your local deli serve cole slaw without the cabbage. Government is intrinsically political; hence, anything it touches is politically influenced. That’s how the system is supposed to work. And that’s why media need to be privately owned.
The PBS-huggers will never accept this, of course, because they hate capitalism as intensely as they hate the conservatives who people its corporate offices and the current federal government. The fact that capitalism underwrites everything in our free-enterprise society, including their pet government-owned media outlets, is lost on these folks.
Government in a free society has no business in the media business, any more than the White House has any business paying "journalists" to write favorable articles or federal agencies have any business distributing propaganda videos disguised as "news stories" to television stations.
The private sector certainly is not pristine. But neither is the public sector. America’s strength springs from the principle that the various and diverse sectors of American life, including commerce and government, check and balance each other’s influence. None by itself is perfect, but in a dynamic relationship of checks and balances they produce better results than any other system yet devised by humankind.
Government-owned media upset that balance, and naively place too much faith in government to refrain from doing what it is supposed to do — exerting political influence. That’s not only nonsensical, it’s an impossibility.
The answer is to fully privatize PBS.