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Justifying PBS

February 6, 2008
President Bush’s proposed budget features significant cuts to public broadcasting: 2009’s allocation goes from $400 million to $200 million. And 2010’s drops from $420 million to $200  million. More details here.

Public broadcasting certainly had an easier time justifying itself in the days when it was the only place to find quality children’s educational programming—and when it was the primary means by which cultural programming entered American homes.

I’ll confess that, when asked, I have trouble making a convincing case that PBS needs to be a vital part of the government budget. Its own fact sheet doesn’t make a very convincing case.

The cynic in me asks: If enough people want British sitcoms and ballroom dance competitions, wouldn’t some cable channel pick up the slack?

On the other hand, as with most cultural funding, what it’s asking for is a relatively small amount of money, especially when government waste is as high as it is.

Besides, I’m part of the original “Sesame Street” generation. It’s difficult to imagine life without PBS. (And, selfishly, I’m looking forward to the February “Great Performances” broadcast of the recent Broadway revival of the musical “Company.”)

So I’m sitting here on the fence, waiting for someone’s arguments to tip me either way.

Your thoughts?
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