"The press . . . just doesn't get religion." - William Schneider
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So you’re the manager of a PBS station. It’s pledge drive time. You want to a) rake in the dough and b) get viewers to encourage Congress not to pull the plug on federal funding. Who do you turn to?
Click here for the answer.
As a devoted viewer of PBS, I’ve often wondered why, in order to raise funds, they preempt their normally scheduled shows for offerings like [insert tired, pop performers of at least age 50] Reunion Concerts or Self-Help Guru Infomercials. It is as though they are saying, “We’re holding your shows hostage, you better send us some money!” In this case, however, a fair reading of JPII’s life might just prompt me to pull out my checkbook.
Exactly. The stations are in a bind. On one hand, they must convince us that they depend upon “viewers like you” because no one else gives them any money. On the other hand, they want “viewers like you” to contact all those other people who give them money.
I also agree with Steve. I suspect that I am like many thirty-somethings who are interested in history, science, literature, and classical music, and who should be PBS viewers. Something with Ken Burns, Michael Tilson Thomas, or the late Alistair Cooke? We’d watch and give. Motown and the unending drivel of Dr. Dyer? Not happening. Shouldn’t they be trying to draw in the next generation of serious supporters?
Or you could watch the History Channel, or Discovery, or A&E, or any other number of profitable channels that people actually want to watch, and which collectively have rendered PBS redundant. Public Broadcasting provides nothing of value that is not already provided by a private network. So why do we need it? Well, other than serving as an outlet for otherwise unmarketable left-wing agitprop, I mean?
Or you could watch the History Channel, or Discovery, or A&E, or any other number of profitable channels that people actually want to watch, and which collectively have rendered PBS redundant.
You gonna write me a check for $50 each month to pay for it? I am not sufficiently “ideological” to care much whether PBS receives taxpayer funding. But let’s not pretend they are replaceable by cable. This is, I think, just another bit of right-wing agitprop!
That $50 returns good value to customers which is why people pay it. They get a good selection of channels for their money. And I have yet to hear anyone describe some unique valuable programming niche filled by PBS which the market does not already serve. Note that word ‘valuable.’ It means that the program is commercially viable in that a sufficient number of people will pay to watch it.
So what exactly does PBS offer that is unique? Assume PBS went off the air tommorow. (For the sake of argument let’s just forget that anything of commmercial value would immediately migrate to Cable.) Of what would I be deprived if PBS suddenly exited the scrren? History? Science? Arts? Children’s programming? Talking-head shows? What about Frontline? Well, now we are getting warm.
There is nothing PBS does that is not done, or could not be done, on other channels better or just as well.
It’s not “agitprop” just because you disagree with it. The Soviet terminology is far more apt for pro-PBS propganda, actually since they still love Castro and pine for the days of the Sandinistas.
To carry ECJ’s thought further, I have no doubt that a libral cable network – filled with hatred of religious conservatives, Bush, Cheney, the war in Iraq, the military and Halliburton – would spring up almost immediately if PBS went the way of the dinosaurs (which you can learn all about on the Discovery Channel, by the way, or Animal Planet, or the Science Channel.)
And I don’t know about your PBS station, but mine is running Grateful Dead fans smoking pot and eating hallucinagenic mushrooms right about now.
Guess I was wrong. I can’t get that anywhere else, nor do I want to.
Not all of us can afford cable.
Well, it sounds like we have folks simply talking beyond each other here. Not having cable is a choice I’ve made at least as much on principle than on financial considerations. Nevertheless, I cannot now speak intelligently toward the supposed equivaliency of “for profit” offerings available therein–except for the ubiquity of commercials which I find fantastically offensive. I do recall, from the days several years ago (my young and foolish time-wasting days) when I had cable, not finding much on several of the aforementioned cable channels that was quite of the same caliber that I found on PBS. There was some overlap, some correlation, but by no means equivalency. But who knows? Perhaps this has changed, since the proliferation of cable channels cannot help but to have brought up the average…
I suspect that PBS’s detractors are simply too willing to lend to sheer market forces the authority to determine what is good and fitting. I think this faith rather misplaced. Sure, we live in a world where Walmart wins and Bill and Fran’s local stores lose. But this is not the world I want to live in… If PBS stands between the status quo and total domination of all value by market forces, then their existence seems a trifling small price to pay.
The idea of PBS’s enthrallment with the left I find simply humorous. Though I’d hardly call them “fair and balanced,” at least with “things PBS” there lies the best chance of recognizing the inherent improbabilities of such a position. There are few folks more conservative (in the traditionalist sense) than myself, and yet I find little discomfort in how topics are handled on PBS, at least relative to the sensationalism I see on the major networks. Sure, some particular shows, especially those produced by our local WNET (NYC) affiliate, are way out there. But these are really a blessing in disguise, for they graciously prompt me toward the most conservative option of all: turn off the damn TV.
The difficulty of course is in attaching a definition to concepts such as ‘same caliber’ and ‘equivalency.’ These words imply a standard that is never quite in view. We simply know that the “vulgar masses” do not measure up to it.
Besides, PBS is not operating in an arena of objective standards anyway. It knows its audience. It responds to market forces just like every other station. That audience is upscale, secular, and very comfortable with the editorial policy of the NY Times. Funny thing. So is PBS. Perhaps there are enough donors in that audience such that PBS could survive without Gov’t money? Another funny thing. PBS doesn’t think so.
There is a whiff of elitism surrounding your position, and your hostility to the market. But the ‘elites’ often make bad guides. For myself I should rather trust the opinion of 1000 random citizens regarding a work of art than 1000 carefully selected artists. Would 1000 random citizens give us the idiocy of Andy Warhol – the incoherence of John Cage? Did the masses rush off the make Warhol a successful artist? Or was it that part of the population which patronizes PBS?
So tell me again? Why should I consider PBS programming decisions to be “better?”
Besides, in 1989, PBS showed 16 hours of Wagnerian opera on four consecutive nights – 7 to 11 each night. And my wife made me watch it. Then she turned the channel to another PBS station (which was showing the same opera from 7:30 to 11:30) so she could rewatch the last 30 minites. I have never forgiven PBS for that trauma. The scars are still visible.
We’re not ‘talking beyond each other,’ we’re talking.
I suggest you get cable NOW, rather than rely on preconceptions you gathered many years ago when you had it. Cable’s much richer in content.
As for Wal-Mart, Dateline NBC did a masterful job of exposing our overseas slave labor practices this past week.
And as for PBS, I go into every PBS show, be it news or documentary or historical epic, with the thought, “Maybe it will be different this time. Maybe it will be fair to conservatives. Maybe they won’t simply set up the piece as ‘sane people vs. crazy/bigoted/luddite conservatives’ again.
Or maybe they won’t just churn out the same, well-worn, mind-numbing news format: set up the problem, bring in an inarticulate conservative, spend the other 3/4ths of the segment knocking down the conservative position, then close with a ‘call to action’ by noting that the conservative will not be giving up his/her ridiculous position.
I hope beyond hope that they won’t portray conservative, traditional or prudent people as the villains who are hopelessly out-of-date or simply as bigots.
But while there are some notable exceptions, all of these hopes are quickly dashed much of the time, and I’m left groaning my way through the segment, docudrama or “news” program.
No, it’s not my imagination. Yes, it’s bias.
PBS should change into something other than a tool of the social and political Left if it continues to get one dime of my tax dollars.
ECJ: Whatever Wagner did to you, try watching that Grateful Dead footage on PBS. Mind-rotting. Watching hippie kids from 1969 pass around a beer can bong, each taking long drags from it before eating mushrooms to get high, is NOT great television, or even great art.
It’s actually boring but at the same time also amazing when you suddenly realize it’s their way of RAISING funds for the local station.
I gotta go with Steve Nicoloso on this one: kill your TV. And quickly.
I think the case for those cable alternatives is a tad overstated: how many insurance-salesman-by-day-killer-by-night programs on A&E must one sit through before getting some reasonably intelligent programming?
Of course PBS is elitist: any television station that still airs John Denver television spectaculars is not trying to attract a mass audience. But there are just some things – like John Denver – that the market isn’t going to like, and PBS is the place for them. I’m not sure why pointing ou that the market isn’t always good for the arts is right-wing agit-prop; it just seems like common sense to me. And I’ll be sure to change my mind when VH1 starts playing Wagner retrospectives.
Thanks for listening: gotta go sell some insurance.
There is a whiff of elitism surrounding your position, and your hostility to the market. But the â€˜elitesâ€™ often make bad guides. For myself I should rather trust the opinion of 1000 random citizens regarding a work of art than 1000 carefully selected artists. Would 1000 random citizens give us the idiocy of Andy Warhol – the incoherence of John Cage?
While I have found it difficult in the past to escape charges of elitism, all I can say that I don’t feel like an elitist. I too have little respect for the opinions of the elite, save for my own. But I do think, ECJ, you do present a false dichotomy here. The choice is not between the elites who eschew the popular in favor of the ridiculous, and the free masses excercising good old fashioned common sense. If this were true, I’d gladly side with the masses 99% of the time. Instead, the real dichotomy lies between the elites who consider themselves above giving the people what they want, and the other elites who do not. And this latter sort of elites, let’s call them the Al Capones of Entertainment, care not one whit that the masses are amusing themselves to death (intellectually speaking if not literally). In the name of profit, and in full accordance with the sanctity of individual choice, the Al Capones generally peddle little more than porn. Now it might well be true that the first group of elitists, those that consider themselves above the ignorant grubby masses, also peddle porn, but the mere fact that it fails to be particularly popular (due to its abstraction, high entry point, whatever) gives me some hope that it might do sustantially less damage. In short, is not a choice between “bad” elites and “good” masses, but rather between bad elites and worse elites. Careful how you pick your poison!
One other thing that I haven’t heard about yet is the “conservative” (in our weird universe) defense of commercials. Doesn’t the state, at least in principle, have some interest in protecting it citizens from commercial advertising? Could helping to underwrite commercial free (or commerical limited) viewing be a valid interest of the state?
PBS has the potential to be a really great resource, but of course it has been hijacked by the culture war. I would love to see Wagnerian opera on TV, because I will not be able to see that any any other channel besides a 1000 channel satellite station (maybe). But I am far more likely to see a show on queer theory or a tongue bathing of Castro than a show on Ravel, Debussy or Wagner. I don’t think cultural conservatives pay that much attention to the pervading liberal bias at PBS, but you can only tolerate the constant bashing so long. I don’t blame them. But occassionally you do have a televised opera or concerto and really great shows like NOVA (or anything with David Attenborough). Most folks won’t get a chance to see this elsewhere.
But I would not connect the popular cable offerings with the wizened masses. I think its trading the program of one clique of depraved elites for another. The Rupert Murdoch/Conglomerate media glacially inches towards the pornographic in sexuality and violence.
Anyway, the government shouldn’t subsidize culture, or what politicians and beaurocrats deign to call culture. Culture lives and dies on its own merits. The “culture” represented on PBS is no longer a part of the culture in America. Its ironic that liberals who go apopleptic whenever the government shows any deference towards the religion of the poeple (which actually IS the culture of the people), are suddenly surprised that non-liberals no longer want government subsidization of their social program (which bears many of the features of a religion or anti-religion).
A year after I turned the TV off I ran into a quote by Dr. David Allen White.
‘ “Throw it out!” Better yet, take it out and shoot it! That way, no one else can pick it up and carry it off. The reason I am saying this is because I am beginning to understand the insidious nature of it. I am a man who was raised on movies and TV; they shaped much of who I am. I am now seeing the new uses to which they are being put. There are major changes occurring and the images that are flashed on the screen are doing work that is positively destructive in a profound way, touching the spiritual nature of man in a way that I can only call demonic. I am increasingly troubled by it.’
Dr. White was at a conference discussing the implications of the image replacing the word.
When visiting relatives I sometimes surf the sattelite or cable channels and once again feel depressed and demeaned by their offerings.
I give PBS $80 a year instead of paying $50 a month for cable. I think it is a fiscally sound and responsible thing. I get history, British comedies, nature shows, theatre, local programming, and children’s programming that isn’t one big commerical all on one channel (well in the DC metro are 2.5 channels, 3 when the weather is nice). Because my station is dependent on me the programming won’t get too off base, like say some cable channels that are all WWII all the time or TLC which is the home improvement channel.
Some of y’all don’t like PBS, and that is your right. Some of us do and we will fight for it. I will fight for Big Bird and the letter A.
Marie, you have every right to enjoy and pay for PBS. And although we all communally pay for things some of which we don’t all use (so I’m make this next point carefully because I’m not a Libertarian) you don’t necessarily have a right to have ME pay for PBS programming. That’s a decision we as voters and taxpayers now have to make, based on the evidence of how PBS is being managed.
The comedies are nice, and the nature and science shows are often supurb. I’ll grant that. They can thrive (and *are* thriving) on other channels, too.
But while you’re trotting out Big Bird and the letter “A” – a very popular tactic – don’t forget the numerous left-leaning ‘documentaries’ (sic) or ‘artistic’ programs paid for, in part, with my tax dollars, or the one-sided news programs that are designed to not give conservatives a fair and equal voice, as noted already.
I will admit there is a case to be made for public art, and perhaps for a public art channel for those who eschew cable TV.
That said, all voices must be given a chance to be heard on that channel. That’s not happening now.
What sort of programming on PBS would be acceptable?
Molly, it’s not a question of programming so much as its a question of balance, for the most part.
Let’s have fewer shows in which all the participants of a round table discussion are all of one mind, for example.
But to address programming, there are surely SOME filmmakers who are not utterly and totally anti-Bush or anti-traditionalist in mindset. But we don’t see them on taxpayer-funded TV.
Perhaps some religious conservatives want to see a Frontline piece about how it feels to have their free speech rights consistently trampled on in the public arena.
Those would be good, for starters.
Then why not lock on to Fox, Stephen?
I think you may be working from the principle, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.”
Actually, I would rather have the public funding plug pulled on PBS than to have it turn into yet another mindless network that offers up drivel in order to keep the masses sedated.
The difference is, and the problem for PBS is, we can easily define leftist bias, and easily find it there. (I can actually define pornography, too, and so can most reasonable people. But that’s another issue.)
And while FOX offers some balance, I am not totally enamored with the tabloid nature of many of their programs. I totally agree with you on one point: All Jacko, All “missing person of the week” All the time CAN be sedating and mind-numbing.
That said, they at least try for balance. I hear they just hired Gen. Wesley Clark as a commentator, so they can’t be THAT biased against giving raving leftists a platform.
The TV is the instrument of post-modern manipulation well used by the liberals. They saw how it could effectively be employed to change the political and social landscape in the early 60′s during the political debates. The medium was indeed the “massage” (McLuhan). The Democrats have always tended to deliver an emotional message and the image was the perfect medium. They set up the victim paradigm: Bad White Man, Good (fill in the blank)added music, tremulous voices, and have played this for all it’s worth for four decades. (*The Ugly American* had done well as a best-seller.) This was their formula for success and it worked well in our TV addicted culture until this completely-misread latest generation started coming into power. They are not buying the guilt trips , have been taught to question everything , are not ashamed to be patriotic, and have unprecedent access to information, the key to the current situation. The day of the innocent aborigine dazzled by glittering baubles is over. The image has been pitted against the word. Perfect hair, eyes, teeth is up against the purely voice medium, which supports, gives added information and focus to the suspicions of the coming generation, and most important is built into cars, our second homes. Enter Rush, Sean, Laura, Mark, etc., the hounds of the right. Much as the playing-to-the-choir liberals and Rush would like all to believe, the radio hosts didn’t create the market, the market created them.
The liberal achilles heels and clay feet are showing all over the place. This has pushed the liberals to only intensify to extreme and absurd attacks on commercial channels and to the sweetly reasonable vitriol of Moyers et al on PBS. This works well in the intellectually incestuous metro markets but is somewhat limited to these blue islands. They are in a pickle: keep the contributing base by flattering its self-rightousness and they allienate the obviously growing right. I believe PBS is very afraid that given their current programming they have reached a growth limit and will be a niche market increasingly dependent on private funding. The tax-sensitive and increasingly active right will apply pressure to reduce federal funding to what it considers a liberal propaganda machine.
Editor’s Note ECJ has been on a trip for three days…
“In the name of profit, and in full accordance with the sanctity of individual choice, the Al Capones generally peddle little more than porn.”
This is a fair critique of my position. But the problem of programming that is “little more than porn” (btw a true assessment) is a demand side problem. It is a reflection of the character of the viewing public. The distribution of choice across a wide spectrum is not invalidated simply because actors within that spectrum will make bad choices. And in any case it would not be fixed by elites making better decisions. I fear the concentrated power would make things worse.
“Doesnâ€™t the state, at least in principle, have some interest in protecting it citizens from commercial advertising? Could helping to underwrite commercial free (or commerical limited) viewing be a valid interest of the state?”
I sure it would. But unfortunately all our examples of how such such commercial-free programming actuaally works end up coming from places like the Soviet Union.
Hope you are still paying attention. Sorry to take so long responding.
“I sure it would. But unfortunately all our examples of how such such commercial-free programming actuaally works end up coming from places like the Soviet Union.”
Britian does the job pretty well. Well enough that half of our cable programming looks increasingly like last year’s BBC lineup.
Britian does the job pretty well. Well enough that half of our cable programming looks increasingly like last yearâ€™s BBC lineup.
Ha! Only with commercial advertising inserted.
But the problem of programming that is â€œlittle more than pornâ€ (btw a true assessment) is a demand side problem. It is a reflection of the character of the viewing public. The distribution of choice across a wide spectrum is not invalidated simply because actors within that spectrum will make bad choices. And in any case it would not be fixed by elites making better decisions. I fear the concentrated power would make things worse.
ECJ, I strenuously disagree that it is only a “demand side” problem. By this logic, prostitution, drugs, and driving w/o seatbelts, should also be legalized. Now I realize that this is a standard Libertarian principle, but one that I think pins false hope on human nature, and falsely assumes that self-interest taken en masse will naturally align with public interest. (Full disclosure: I would not be opposed to legalization of certain recreational drugs.) Furthermore, I don’t see how treating the “porn” (much of modern network & cable programming) as purely a demand side issue can make sense of its own genesis. Are we to believe that 10,000 sensation-starved viewers petitioned MTV to create “Real Life” (or whatever it was called) to fulfill their inherent, pent up, prurient demand? No. Networks, both cable and broadcast, in this hideously over-saturated market innovate continuously (as does biology over much broader epochs), trying ever newer, ever bolder, ever more extreme, and, ultimately, ever more base notions of what the people might want. And occasionally they get a hit, advertising dollars then pour in, and a segment of people already too addicted to the “porn” (the “feelies”) finds something new (and likely more base) to get addicted to.
As much as Princess Amidala’s quip about democracy ending to thunderous applause resonates with us, it seems far a more likely scenario that democracy ends and, while everyone spaces out in the opium dens that TV rooms across America have become, no one takes notice at all.
Now it surely sounds like I’m arguing that the gov’t should step in and shoot down 80% of the programming currently available. And if I were king of the world, I might even try it (24 hour news would be the first to go ). But as this all relates to the little ol’ CPB, my plea is for something much less grandiose: simply that one (1) alternative be allowed to exist, that there be one extant channel (whether of 13 or 150) that, irrespective of my financial means, I can turn to and not be saturated (or worse, have my children saturated) by demand-ex-nihilo wizardry of TV advertising.
Yeah, CPB puts out some pretty left-leaning stuff, but far more often (IMO) it puts pretty good stuff (left, right, or indifferent). It is surely worth every one of the few pennies (if it is even on average one penny… I haven’t done the math) that the American taxpayer is asked to contribute toward is continued existence.
” It is surely worth every one of the few pennies (if it is even on average one pennyâ€¦ I havenâ€™t done the math) that the American taxpayer is asked to contribute toward is continued existence.”
I read a statistic somewhere that said that CPB is funded by 15% of gov’t money. 15%!!!!! The other 85% comes from people who must 1) like and 2) want the programming currently available. I would imagine that if someone were to take the time to break down the figures, the money given by taxpayers vs. subscribers is out of proportion to the noise coming from those who do not like what they see.
My suggestion, therefore, is if one does not like the bias on PBS, then join your local station and register protest through that venue. Until you put up a couple hundred bucks a year rather than a few pennies in tax dollars, I really don’t think CPB needs to listen. (It’s sort of like griping about the powers that be when one didn’t bother to vote.)
Do I really sound like a Libertarian? It’s true I read them a lot but most Libertarians think I am a Nazi. If I do sound that way, I should just admit I’m wrong as penance.
So let me address this ‘demand side’ issue. Prostitution is immoral, and there is a strong case to be made for the public regulation of private sexual behavior. (See the ‘Nazi’ comment above) Similar argument for drugs/porn. (Fining adults for not wearing seat belts is the kind of idoitic law which could almost make me a Libertarian, however.) There are shows like ‘Nip and Tuck’ that are little more then soft core porn. Given the authority, I would ban such shows (see Nazi comment again) but there is no public mood to do so. You are absolutely right that there is a “push-pull” relationship between jaded public morals and jaded media. But the public (through its representative government) has the power to stop it. It just likes being titillated, and so doesn’t want to. That is what I meant by ‘demand side problem.’
But I don’t think those are the shows in view when people complain about TV. Explicit sexuality is generally considered a good thing by the PBS audience. Instead, they are thinking of “Who wants to Marry a Millionaire?” or whatever it was. There is nothing immoral about the show. But neither does it “elevate the spirit” or “enlighten the mind.” It’s sort of like ‘People Magazine’ The complaint stems from an elitist desire to see TV as an old-fashioned Liberal Arts education the purpose of which is to make the masses more like the elite. Kind of a secular evangelism. It proceeds from the idea that people ought rather to be watching two-hour documentaries on the life and times of William Shakespeare, because “it’s good for them.” But what are these elites really doing besides pushing there own preferences? What is their standard, and why should I trust them?
Honestly, I find PBS a difficult network to watch and not because of the ever-present bias. I don’t even surf to it anymore. There is almost nothing it offers that touches my interest. (Note I watch CSPAN2 for fun.) So why don’t I see this reputed quality I am told about so often? ‘Antique Roadshow’ was interesting for a few episodes, but it doesn’t wear well. Bad British comedies (and I do mean BAD) proliferate, but are they preferable to the reality shows on the networks? It is hard for me to see why. True, there is a lot of junk on the for-profit channels. But there is good stuff as well. You just have to go find it. But I don’t find anything of comparable quality on PBS. What I do find is an attitude of intellectual superiority. This attitude is bred by its detachment from the market – from the ‘low desires’ of the ‘vulgar masses.’ It doesn’t have to make money, and so it feels superior. That more then anything else is what offends me about PBS.
If PBS can survive on its own as a non-profit, more power to them. TV niches can be pretty small these days. But PBS must think that public money is critical. Otherwise they wouldn’t fight so hard to keep it. I have heard them argue it is ‘validation’ money. It makes them credible in the eyes of private donors. That’s all I want really – to make them accountable to the market – to the stiff rod of correction of the market. It’ll knock that attitude right out of them.
Last post. Thanks for the exchange. You can have the last word if you so desire.
BTW, I am a Calvinist and no Libertarian So I have no faith in the goodness of Human nature.
“Explicit sexuality is generally considered a good thing by the PBS audience.”
I’m sorry that was your last post because I wondered where on earth you get this idea. I would expect this to be true if you stated that explicit sexuality were considered good by MTV, HBO, ABC, CBS, etc. But PBS???? I’ve always thought it was pretty stuffy as far as sexuality goes. Which program did I miss that would show me otherwise???
As to the morality of Marrying a Millionaire or whatever, I inferred from your previous comments that you consider protstitution immoral. What else is that show – or any other show that holds out the promise of a huge reward – but shameless opportunities for people to go on television and prostitute themselves? The audience is the john and the networks are the pimps. But, all hail the free market, I guess….
Perhaps I wasn’t clear in that sentence. So let me try again. The audience which watches PBS (secular, upscale, liberal) is not generally offended by the level of sexuality on other stations. That burden falls on people like me (primitive, ignorant, troglodytic ). And we are called hopeless medieval prudes for even suggesting that standards be imposed. Do you rememebr the initial controversy over “NYPD Blue?” Who were the opposing forces in that argument? So it can’t be the case that sex is what is driving this idea (among PBS viewers) that public programming is so much better.
Personally, I think the level of sexuality is positivly encouraged because it is seen as an effective solvent by which attachments to traditional concepts of morality may be dissolved. Only once convince someone that the proscription against fornication is wrong, and you don’t just change his mind on sexual ethics. You by implication bring down everything else resting upon that same foundation of authority. Old faith must be destroyed before new faith can take root. That is the essense of the culture war.
As for the rest, I have two comments: 1) I attach to all these reality shows the same degree of credibility I attach to the WWF, and 2) Given that your proposed usage of the term ‘prostitution’ would include ‘Jeopardy’, you evidently have a much broader definition for it then I do.
Well, ECJ, I too am sorry to hear that the post before your post above is to be your last post. For I think we’ve spiralled in toward some agreement, and toward amicability where agreement is most lacking. I’m pleased to hear of your Nazi (in the best possible sense of the word) tendancies. As you no doubt have guessed, I have similar tendancies and am thus quite sympathetic.
But I admit to being perplexed by this bit:
Thatâ€™s all I want really – to make them accountable to the market – to the stiff rod of correction of the market. Itâ€™ll knock that attitude right out of them.
As one who, like I, admits to little or no faith in human nature, I wonder why you favor accountability to the market. Wouldn’t accountability to the taxpayers, a congressional investigation, or even AM radio talk show hosts be really a more fitting corrective, i.e., from the “Nazi” (in the best possible sense of the word) perspective? I can understand wanting to “stick it to” folks you consider to be, many of whom no doubt are, smug. But wouldn’t the prurience, the fickleness, the intellectual and moral incoherence of the market quickly destroy a very unique, and perhaps irreplaceable thing (however corrupted or elitist it may have become), viz., the only commercial free (commerical limited) broadcast channel available in America?
the spirit is willing… the flesh is weak.
“But wouldnâ€™t the prurience, the fickleness, the intellectual and moral incoherence of the market quickly destroy a very unique, and perhaps irreplaceable thing (however corrupted or elitist it may have become), viz., the only commercial free (commerical limited) broadcast channel available in America?”
Yes, it might. And I am even willing to concede that some small opportunity cost will have to be born. But really this just brings us full-circle. For you would have to convince me that there is some intrinsic value in the programming which would actually be lost – that the opportunity cost is too high to bear. You can win this argument with me. You only have to meet that condition.
But you can’t win by appealing to the pristine nature of non-commercial programming – unsullied as it might be by money. The simple absense of commercial motive does not isolate programming from the the prurience, the fickleness, the moral incoherence of man. In fact the man who produces without having to care about whom he offends will be tempted to give full vent to his particular predjudices. A comercial motive is not objectively less pure then a non-commercial motive. And it can be just as destructive. Many are they who died in the Communist gulags for the sake of non-commercial motives.
Commercial motive is just another form of accountability. PBS I fear has begome just another ‘vanity press’ for producers who wish to indulge their own egos without the constraints of exactly that accountability. And I really don’t want to pay (however small) for the privilege of having someone spit in my face – all the while telling me how artistic and enlightened and brilliant they are for doing so.
ECJ, I’m not objecting to the commercial motive as much as I am objecting to the commercial advertising itself. One could hope or even argue that the motives behind non-commercial television production might be more pure than those behind commercially succesful television, but that really isn’t what I’m arguing. I’m arguing simply that commercial advertising per se has the tendency (an evil tendency) to create demand ex nihilo (if you have kids who’ve watched more than 5 minutes of commercial TV, you cannot doubt this), and that is a thing worthy of being opposed in principle. To me the slant, bias, balance, fairness, worthiness, quality, propriety, &c. of the programming is a secondary issue. What I find unbearable in commercial TV are the commercials… more so than the commercial-ISM (which ain’t so hot either most of the time). In short, it is not the programming that I fear to lose, but rather the mere absense of commercial ads. And this is why I find public TV such a breath of fresh air, in spite of the fact that they air Dead Head coverage (full disclosure: I actually love the Dead), Motown or Self-Help Fundraising Schlock, Now, or Queer-Focussed programming, and may very well be a good bit more left of center than I care to be. Heck, my faith in PBS could even survive 16 hours of Wagnerian opera… with the TV off of course.
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