Un-Retired Again: Is Bill Moyers The Brett Favre of PBS?

Elizabeth Jensen at the New York Times reports "Bill Moyers says he is returning to public television in January, but he won’t be found on the PBS lineup." This is a distinction without much difference -- if, as expected, most PBS stations snap it up.

By "un-retiring" again, Moyers is beginning to look like the Brett Favre of PBS. His latest retirement from the latest installment of "Bill Moyers Journal" was in 2010. He also retired in 2004 after PBS president Pat Mitchell insisted he had to return to liberal PBS after 9/11.


Jensen reported: "His new hourlong weekly show, called 'Moyers & Company,' will focus on one-on-one interviews with people not often heard on television, “thinkers who can help us understand the chaos of this time,” Mr. Moyers said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to be concerned with the state of democracy and the state of affairs, but we will leave the daily and weekly story to others and try to do the back story.”

How this approach is in any way different than Bill Moyers Journal is a complete mystery. Is the "company" a co-anchor, or a guest host? Maybe it's because PBS superstation WNET sees this as a Sunday night show. Jensen added:

The program will be based at WNET in New York City and distributed free to public television stations by American Public Television, an alternative distributor to PBS. Stations will be able to broadcast it at whatever time they choose. In a letter to public television executives announcing the new program, Mr. Moyers, who is 77, said that WNET was looking at showing the program on Sundays at 6 p.m.

Earlier this year, Mr. Moyers, who retired from PBS in April 2010, said he had received $2 million in financing from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the new show, but PBS had told him it couldn’t find an appropriate time slot.

Since word went out on Monday afternoon, Mr. Moyers said he had heard from a number of stations that they were interested in broadcasting the program. He said he had also heard from many former viewers in recent months. “There’s an audience there that missed the campfire,” he said.

Anne Bentley, a PBS spokeswoman, said in a statement, “Bill Moyers has been a distinctive voice on public television for decades,” adding that his new project “will build on this legacy.”

This hardly sounds like PBS isn't a welcoming forum for Moyers, as it has always been. The "campfire" is back, and conservatives are back on the wood pile.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis