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Commentary: Where the Money Comes From

By Merrie Spaeth, KERA 90.1 commentator

Commentary: Where the Money Comes From

Dallas, TX –

What does Social Security reform have to do with funding PBS? The House of Representatives is trying to cut $100 million from the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The defenders of public radio and television are pointing out that the cuts would hurt programs like Sesame Street and almost certainly eliminate funding for digital conversion, which is a federal mandate for all stations.

There's always been a debate over funding for public broadcasting, with conservatives arguing that we shouldn't spend public money and liberals arguing it should be funded like the BBC, by a tax.

As a free market conservative, what do I think? We all gripe about pledge drives, but the result is a healthy diversified funding base and support - corporate, public, private individuals, corporations.

I want Congress to restore and increase the money for public broadcasting - but for different reasons than you might think. And yes, some of the politically correct things PBS and National Public Radio do drive me wild - like having Postcards From Buster visit lesbian families in Vermont. Anyone who asks, "Hey, is that really age appropriate for kids?" gets accused of being homophobic.

And where are the segments showing self reliance, the value of struggle and American ideals? PBS and NPR used to ignore the importance of enterprise and business. But that's changing. Anyone who listens to Marketplace or The Motley Fool gets an important - and fun - education on what creates and sustains our economic system.

First, a comment on why the cuts are happening - and it's not because money's tight everywhere.

Not while Don Young, Chairman of the Transportation Committee, has millions of pork perks for Alaska including a bridge to an island with no people that even the Alaska Transportation Department doesn't want, and I'm not impressed with the claim that this is driven by free market philosophy. Not while we have Republicans supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who compete with private sector businesses but who trade on the perception that they have the full faith of government backing so they get lower cost of capital.

This debate is happening because it's payback time. Conservatives think public broadcasting is dominated by liberals who hate us. This is irrelevant.

Republicans in Congress should restore the funding because it's important to reach a crucial audience - people who don't agree with us - on issues like Social Security and health care reform.

Do you think we're going to convince people the system in Galveston should be an option for Social Security by just screaming over Fox? These discussions need to go on in places other than where advocates with nuclear hardened viewpoints yell at each other and accuse each other of bad faith.

The inclusion of public broadcast in the menu of information available to the American people, and people around the globe, is terribly important - to conservatives. And it's supported by an appropriate mix of public and private funds.

Remember that saying? Be careful what you wish for, you may get it? If you kill or wound this avenue to many Americans who think and care about issues - even if they don't think the way we do - we'll fail at our ultimate goal: to change how people think and ultimately the consensus around solutions.

I'm Merrie Spaeth, I'm a conservative, and I'm proud to be a member of KERA's regular commentators.


Merrie Spaeth is a communications consultant in Dallas. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.

For more information about the proposed funding cuts, their effect on KERA, and what you can do, click here.