It‘s all so painfully familiar. A newly elected, Republican majority in the House of Representatives, filled with zealotry, hubris and self-righteousness, sets its sights on the relatively paltry amount of taxpayer funds (0.012% of the federal budget) that go to National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. It’s 1994 all over again, except that the ultra-conservative element aka the Tea Baggers within the GOP caucus is even more extreme.
To listen to these GOP ideologues, NPR and PBS are hotbeds of liberal bias. But the question that occurs to me is: do they really believe this nonsense?
I’ve watched Jim Lehrer on the PBS Newshour for more years than I care to remember and I still can’t say with any confidence which party affiliation he holds – if any. About the only thing I’ve learned about him from watching the Newshour is that he is a former Marine.
The same is true of any of the hosts on the many NPR news shows such as Morning Edition, All things Considered, Talk of the Nation, and Weekend Edition. Even NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson manages to negotiate the minefield of being a regular panel member on Fox News Sunday with feline, albeit maddening, agility without betraying her political biases (poor old Juan Williams remains the lonely target of whoever the two conservatives are on the panel).
If their fiercest GOP critics actually bothered to watch PBS or listen to NPR, they would know that no issue of public policy is aired without equal time given to the conservative or GOP viewpoint. If any of the GOP congressional dolts are in any real doubt, they should contact right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute, or the neoconservative Weekly Standard, to ascertain how many times in the past year their representatives have been asked to present the view from the right.
The fact is that both NPR and PBS provide the news and in-depth analysis with an almost fanatical lack of bias. Any regular viewer or listener is likely, on the other hand, to be better informed about the key issues of the day, both domestic and international, than those who rely on ABC, CBS or NBC, with their headline-only coverage, or Fox News which is simply the propaganda arm of the right-wing of the Republican Party.
And that may be the real rub. I don’t think it’s liberal bias that bothers Republicans, but the unmatched ability of public television and radio to present the unvarnished truth. And truth has, for a long time now, been the enemy of a GOP that embraces alternate realities, misinformation and outright falsehood. With an informed public, how could we have had “death panels” or weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or the subliminal message that Iraqis participated in 9/11 or a thousand other lies? Given equal time, it’s right-wing ideas that invariably come off worst and that, of course, is the problem.
NPR and PBS are national treasures of which all Americans should be justly proud; the only real pity is that every American doesn’t tune in. In providing an unparalleled blend of news and culture, NPR and PBS serve us well indeed, and are worth every penny of tax-payer funding they receive.
But not for Republicans; for them it is the ignorance of Americans that is truly bliss.