Thursday, July 12, 2007

For Being "Public," PBS Is Very Commercial

I love baseball, it is my favorite sport. Recently a good friend of mine and I were discussing a great series on the game I saw several years ago that was produced by PBS called "Baseball." The ten part series is one of my favorite documentaries on one of my favorite subjects. Sure enough, a few days later, this friend bought me the complete set. I have been very excited indeed.
It took a while to find the time to watch it, but I finally sat down and started going through the series and they certainly do not disappoint. However, before the broadcast of each episode there are several commercials (sorry PBS, I don't know what else to call them) that are displayed in anticipation of the program. Some are for foundations, I notice one by GM, and tell you, in a commercial, that we are watching the show commercial free, thanks to these commercials. Yes, I know, a little confusing.

PBS, also known as the Public Broadcast Service, has figured out how to have its cake and eat it too. In addition to typically having a liberal political agenda in many of its programs, it enjoys government subsidies to underwrite its programming, is tax deductible and recieves donations, and has all the blessings of being a non-profit. In addition to that, it has commercials. Yes, only a few and only at the beginning, but come on!

My old friend former Congressman Steve Stockman made PBS one of his issues. He couldn't understand in an era that had History Channels, National Geographic Channels, Discovery Channels, etc. that there was still a need for government subsidized television (since they provide very "PBS" style programs). The idea behind such subsidized programming is to provide educational shows that wouldn't get on by any other means because the market may not support such. That may have been true in an era of a few national networks and a handful of independent stations in local markets, but in today's economy, it is very difficult to make the case for public programming, especially when one considers it has a political axe to grind.

I love the Baseball series and recomment people buy it (through my bookstore in particular). There are other shows, like Commanding Heights (which makes an excellent case for the market economy), but I believe that the market can provide all the programming we need without the spending of a single taxpayer dollar.

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