GOP Revives Gingrich Era Efforts to ‘Kill Big Bird’

In a replay of a Gingrich era attempt to stifle open discourse and to end programs that educate poor children, the House subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services and Education voted to de-fund public broadcasting. According to the San Franciso Chronicle:

A House subcommittee voted Thursday to sharply reduce the federal government’s financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children’s educational programs as “Sesame Street” and “Arthur.”

In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — which passes federal funds to public broadcasters — starting with a 25 percent reduction for next year, from $400 million to $300 million.

The move may have been pre-saged by a “Special Report” in the rightwing Unification Church-owned Washington Times last month:

Newt Gingrich famously vowed to “zero out” federal funding for public broadcasting a few weeks before becoming House speaker in 1995, but the Republicans essentially backed down when they were accused of trying to kill Big Bird…

In January, PBS declined to add to its national distribution list an episode of the children’s series “Postcards From Buster” that featured two women in a same-sex union, although some stations chose to air it anyway…

Given the advantage PBS has as a free, over-the-air service, it should do far better, according to [Tim Graham, director of analysis for the Media Research Center, a conservative group that monitors the media for examples of bias].

He cited “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” as an example. It draws about 3 million viewers a night, but it would do much better if viewers were really interested in its sober approach to news coverage, Mr. Graham said. “They see themselves as ‘spinach TV.’ We will feed you what you don’t want to watch,” he said.

Such thinking is too subjective, said Les Crystal, executive producer of “NewsHour.”

“Do we do some subjects that are spinach? Maybe. One could argue that stories we’ve done on Darfur (in Sudan) are spinach to some people but meat and potatoes to others.”

Sad to say but killing PBS and NPR is better than the other alternative – allowing the Rightwing to turn them into propaganda outlets for the government like Fox News, Clear Channel and the Washington Times.


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