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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Please. Kill Big Bird

In the pre-cable days when there only existed 3 Networks, you needed a station like PBS to provide information that the networks did not, such as science and history documentaries, children's programming, and TV shows from across the pond. But in the Cable Era, do we really need PBS?

We now have channels that provide basically the same level of programming; many channels, in fact. Today we have the History Channel, National Geographic, HGTV, etc. We even have a Science Channel (might cost you extra depending on your service provider, but it exists). These and similar channels now fill the void in ways a single PBS station could not. They are many and they provide 24-hour programming centered around a specific topic. It appears the free market wins out once again.

Now, you could say that PBS makes up a minuscule percent of a percent of overall Federal Budget expenditures, but--some argue--it is the principle. The point is that it should not be subsidized by the government. Also PBS won't die. Instead, its funding would come from advertizing, thus vastly increasing its revenue. Big Bird would not only live on, he could be stronger than ever.

Yet I would rather "Kill Big Bird" than let this happen. For instance, the above argument of having many educational channels for those with various interests? Well let's go back 15 or 20 years before most of these current channels even existed. Then you had at least two channels that provided some of what PBS does: The Discovery Channel and something called The Learning Channel. At one point they had provided us with shows such as The Nature of Things and Connections. *

Ever hear of The Learning Channel? It's still around but now known only by its initials: T-L-C. Yes, that TLC. The same TLC that gives us the current public curio, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo--a disturbing show that was a spin-off of another equally disturbing TLC show, (Toddlers in Tiaras, if you must know). Not to be outdone by this, The Discovery Channel gives us Gun Country, starring has-been rocker and idiotic, insane bigot Ted Nugent. These cable channels have drifted far from their intended purpose.

This is exactly why we need PBS to stay the way it is. It provides the shows that we need, and this has not changed since its inception. Public funding will ensure that programs such as NOVA will never be replaced by People who Devour Raw Sewage for a Mere Pittance**. The latter would be more profitable than the former, but we need NOVA more than we need pointless and exploitative television. We need the permanence of a PBS and in its own words, we need a local station that "allows everyone the ability to explore new ideas and new worlds through innovative online programming and television." Education is the key to a better informed, civic-minded citizenry (i.e.--with an appeal to patriotism--a better America) It must remain free from a free market that is subject to the whims of a fast-food nation and their misguided expenditures.***

To leave PBS to the cruel hand of the free market would give Big Bird a fate worse than death.

*Originally from the CBC and BBC, respectively. But that highlights the third point from my first paragraph.

**Not to put a horrifying image in your head, but could you picture Neil DeGrasse Tyson competing against Brian Greene in such a venue?
I will also mention that I commit the Slippery Slope fallacy in assuming that PBS would continually degrade to the point of the least common denominator. While possible that it may no, I will still argue that even the slightest degradation would be horrible.

***I do not want to sound like a snob.  I also eat fast food and watch bad television programs.  I also don't want to suggest that the above-mentioned channels are useless and you have to watch PBS instead (or that everything PBS features is quality television). I suggest we maintain PBS as an intellectual safe haven.

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