House Republicans are attempting to live up to their pledge to cut $100 billion from the federal government’s current fiscal year 2011 budget. One of the proposed programs placed on the chopping block is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Congress created the CPB under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 to fill an apparent need for additional sources of high-quality informational, educational, and entertainment-oriented television and radio programming. This mission became obsolete long ago. Back in 1999 then-CPB CEO Robert Coonrod defended taxpayer funding for CPB arguing:
Cable’s spending for original production is increasing today at a rate nearly double that of public television. In addition to Discovery [Channel] and its siblings, The History Channel, Home and Garden Television, and A&E, the expansion of cable’s digital tier will give birth to tens if not hundreds of new channels. What impact this tidal wave of content will have on viewers we do not know, but we can predict competition on a level we have never before contemplated.
Coonrod was half right. The CPB does face tons of competition. But this competition just proves that there is simply no need for government subsidies to keep programming like that offered on public broadcasting on the air. CSPAN, the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, the Food Network, the National Geographic Channel, etc., all prove that high-quality programming can and does easily exist without taxpayer support.
And even if all government funding for the CPB were cut, your favorite characters like Elmo and Big Bird would probably easily survive. While the CPB is entirely taxpayer funded, entities like PBS and NPR receive only about 15% – 20% of their revenue from the CPB. And PBS affiliates increasingly engage in overtly commercial activities, such as a mail-order catalog business, the operation of retail chain stores, and the sale of dolls, toys, and games. The next time you go to Toys-R-Us or Barnes and Noble, pay attention to all the available Sesame Street branded products. The money you pay for those items doesn’t go to charity.
As Michael Connoly of the Club for Growth tweeted: “I have nothing against Arthur or Big Bird. I just want them to move out of my basement and get a real job like Dora and SpongeBob.”