Free PBS from Its Intolerance to Knowledge (& PAC Ads)

by Mike Wendy on April 25, 2012

The other day a Federal Appeals Court struck down an FCC ban on political ads on PBS.  Reuters reports that:

By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the Federal Communications Commission violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause by blocking public broadcasters from running political and public issue ads.

The court said the ban was too broad, and that lifting it would not threaten to undermine the educational nature of public broadcast stations. It upheld a ban on ads for goods and services on behalf of for-profit companies.

“Public issue and political speech in particular is at the very core of the First Amendment’s protection,” Judge Carlos Bea wrote in the main opinion.

Not surprisingly, an outcry emerged from the radical group Free Press, which vehemently opposes any money in politics (others’, conservatives’, that is) and the sky-is-falling implications of the ruling.  In their view, the progressive idyll that PBS represents will suddenly end if its (beggar) stations begin taking political ads from evil PACs. They caterwaul that the ruling means “your local PBS or NPR station could start running nasty attack ads right away,” which just ain’t right because everyone knows that “[m]any Americans turn to public TV or radio to escape the offensive political ads that have flooded commercial stations.”

Free Press / access to knowledge crowd wants to limit access to knowledge (graphic: Free Press)

Awww, the unfiltered world comes crashing down on the do-gooder 1%-ers who feel entitled to have their subsidized airwaves free from despoilment by overt political entreaties.  PAC ads – Yuck.  How declasse.

(Weird, though.  Free Press is part of the progressive phalanx of so-called “access to knowledge” groups, ostensibly working to increase, well, access to knowledge.  I guess political discourse via PAC ads – however untidy – does not qualify as knowledge when aired on PBS?)

But, really, let’s be more specific here.  What they’re really concerned about is conservative viewpoint leaking into to their otherwise hermetically-sealed world.   Go to any PBS station’s webpage and check out their programming schedule.  What you won’t notice is a superfluity of conservative viewpoints.

That’s by design.  Unelected officials can be funny that way.

Like processed foods, the 1%-er viewers are shielded from the brutishness that makes their sausage. Truth be told, however, the whole process is fraught with money in politics.  How do you think Federal dollars end up paying for the stuff?  It’s on-budget, in the appropriations cycle, with “public interest” groups like Free Press (as well as private interests and corporations) lobbying hard to keep the nearly half-billion dollars in yearly appropriations flowing to CPB / PBS.  These tax-free groups are supported in turn by tax-free progressive foundations, which not only fund their lobbying efforts with millions of dollars, but also help pay for and shape the liberal programming that lards CPB / PBS.

Political ads?  Who needs ‘em when all the liberal, dog-whistle programs trafficking progressive policies engorge each programming day?

Basically, PBS is one continuously-running progressive PAC ad.

Bill Moyers – a high priest of the moat-encircled PBS community – seems especially bent out of shape by the 9th Circuit’s ruling (apart from the fact that it came out of the most liberal Court in the Country).  As he sees it:

With our stations always in a financial pickle, frantically hanging on by their fingertips, it won’t be easy to turn down those quick bucks from super PACs and others. But if I may, hang in there my brothers and sisters in the local trenches: if ever there was a time for solidarity and spunk, this is it. Stations KPBS in San Diego and KSFR, public radio in Santa Fe, have already said they won’t take these ads. If enough of you say no, this invasion might be repelled. And viewers, our stations need to know you’re behind them. (Emphasis added)

Break out the pitchforks you 1%-er, PBS-ers!  No one can tell you how to think, force opinions on you or your penumbras and emanations, or bruise your thin skin with divergent, non-progressive viewpoints.  Such affronts should not be tolerated.  Repel, oh special enlightened ones, all knowledge with which you do not agree!  If it does not repeat the Tao that is progressivism, then it is naught.

Thankfully, the rest of us are not so “fortunate.”  We recognize that PAC ads boost knowledge (yes, even “negative” ones), which are important to our self-governance.   Sure, the First Amendment can be a messy place.  But more information – not less – makes us better.  Stated differently, one may or may not agree with any given PAC ad, but they are valid on their own; they do convey important information and ideas and must be allowed on PBS.


Free Press, Bill Moyers and the like may think they can choose all the “right” information for us, but the First Amendment gave Americans a ready mechanism to defeat such centralized, elitist conceit.  More to the point – if PBS is the way progressives want America to look like and be run, then our Democracy is in grave danger.  Employing discrimination to “cure” perceived discrimination, and pushing an agenda which remains intolerant to any other system of “fairness” other than its own vision of “tolerance” cannot be sustained or help Americans thrive.

40% of us self-identify as “conservative” – where is that on PBS?  If progressives fail with even this little challenge, how can they be trusted with real Change?

The answer is they can’t.

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