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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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May 08, 2005

PBS and the BBC model

Another reader writes on whether PBS should give up government money:

A few years ago PBS' slogan was "If PBS doesn't do it, who will?". Well, the answer turned out to be The Discovery Channel, CNN, The History Channel, The National Geographic Channel, BBC America, and a host of other cable channels that provide a wider variety and better quality than PBS ever could.

Remember that the staple fare of PBS' heyday was BBC programs imported from the UK at relatively cheap rates (cheaper than producing indigenous shows at least). The fact is that PBS is a pale, malnourished imitation of the BBC. While the BBC is a great institution, it is far from immune to bias, and it is funded by draconian legislation (see this page and this page for example) that could not be enacted today in the UK. The British public put up with the TV license because it's all they've ever known and they grudgingly acknowledge the quality that the BBC turns out as being worth it. It's a model that PBS can never duplicate, simply because Americans would never put up with a $200 tax per household per year to pay for it - especially not given the appalling track record of PBS executives in managing even a fraction of that revenue.

So if PBS wants to be a player again in the TV industry it must somehow find a funding model that works, and more importantly, a mission that means something and that no other TV station can co-opt or duplicate easily. Being the de facto propaganda arm of the liberal left probably doesn't fit the bill.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at May 8, 2005 10:24 AM



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