PBS Gives One-Sided View of Giving Billions to Fund News

PBS's NOWWant government to fund public media? Then PBS has a place for you. If you back giving news organizations tens of billions of dollars, that's good for nearly 25 minutes of air-time.

That's how the PBS weekly newsmagazine "NOW" addressed a left-wing solution to the decline of the news industry. On Jan. 15, "NOW," welcomed the founders of the left-wing media think tank Free Press - John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney - to tell how tax dollars can be the key component of "Saving American Journalism."

The duo recommended the United States pay $30 billion a year to fund media, what Nichols called a "pretty sane number." "This is sort of the number a free society pays to have credible journalism," he argued.

PBS, which is partially funded by the U.S. government, didn't have anyone on to disagree with the idea of  government underwriting  journalism. "NOW" host David Brancaccio did mention that HuffingtonPost.com founder Arianna Huffington might disagree with the pair's findings. But there was no quote from anyone who thought $30 billion was a lot of taxpayer money to spend on media that would likely be as left-wing as PBS.

It's also a huge increase over the amount they recommended less than a year ago. Writing in the April 6, 2009, issue of the liberal magazine the Nation, they suggested spending $20 billion a year. "All totaled, the suggestions we make here for subscription subsidies, postal reforms, youth media and investment in public broadcasting have a price tag in the range of $60 billion over the next three years," they wrote.

A $10-billion a year increase, and this time they made no mention of an end point. So think of it as a $30 billion a year perpetual subsidy for government-approved media.

McChesney explained it's needed because journalism doesn't work any more. "Journalism isn't a profitable enterprise," he argued. Yet, it's essential to have people informed, so it's up to government. "It's a public good. It requires public subsidies or it won't exist," he added.

In recent months, the George Soros-funded Free Press has been joined by newspaper executives like former Washington Post Editor Len Downie in a push for government funding for journalism.

Dan Gainor
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Vice President for Business and Culture for the Media Research Center