Flap Over Juan Williams is an Unfortunate Distraction from all of the Good that Public Broadcasting Does

If you are among those watching the political debates on Georgia Public Television Sunday evening, you might want to reflect on just how important a service that GPTV is providing viewers in Georgia.  And you might want to reflect on how important it is not to let the controversy over the dismissal of political analyst Juan Williams by National Public Radio affect your support of PBS, NPR, GPTV, and GPR. It certainly hasn’t affected mine. Just because a PBS executive makes a decision that I consider ill-advised, doesn’t mean I am going to throw out the baby with the bath water.  

Libertarian Chuck Donovan and Democrat Michael Thurmond on GPTV debate, Sunday, Oct. 24 (Courtesy: Georgia Public Television)

During last weekend’s debate featuring the candidates for U.S. Senate, Republican incumbant Johnny Isakson, Democratic challenger Mike Thurmond, and Libertarian challenger Chuck Donovan, were asked if federal tax dollars should no longer be given to PBS, as has been called for by conservatives who claim PBS leans liberal.

Donovan said the tax-dollar funding of PBS should stop, but he made no mention of the Williams controversy, or the claim that PBS leans liberal. It’s just a matter of Libertarian principal with him. He likes public broadcasting, saying, “I happen to enjoy public broadcasting, but it is inappropriate particularly for a government that is broke to be involved.” 

Thurmond thinks taxpayer funding should continue.  He said he grew up in a rural community and GPTV made a big difference in his life. He said, “City folks may have other resources, but when you live in rural Georgia you need a resource like Georgia Public Broadcasting to educate our children and inform our population. It is a good expenditure. It’s not even an expenditure. It’s an investment in the future of this state and the future of this nation and I will continue to support it.” He also made no mention of the Williams controversy.

Isakson sidestepped the question by not even addressing whether taxpayer funding should stop or whether PBS leans to the left.    He used the question to plug a budget reform bill he is sponsoring in the Senate. He said, “The Isakson biannual budget requires oversight and justification every  even-numbered year, then things that we should appropriate that we can afford we would and those we could do without we would not.”

Tactically, I thought the dismissal problematic.  It played right into the hands of some conservatives who want stop taxpayer dollars for PBS.  However, it wouldn’t bother me for PBS to not have to depend on tax dollars.  I would even be willing to increase my annual modest donation.  I think PBS provides a marvelous service, something you can’t get anywhere else, and I don’t want it being controlled by partisan politicians.   Though, I do think it’s fine for the government to pay for the classroom educational programs. They are especially useful, as Thurmond says, in rural areas.

I have no problem with it being liberal, if the definition of liberal is a person with an open mind who is willing to listen and weigh both side of an issue.  I think it is liberal in that sense. You do hear both sides of arguments on PBS. I know some professed liberals who think PBS is way too conservative. Well, I have no problem with it being conservative, if the definition of a conservative is a person who wants to conserve the freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  I think it is conservative in that sense.  When the extremists on both sides claim you favor the other side, you know you are doing something right: you are being fair and balanced.

Oh, about those Sunday evening debates.  There will be one at 6 p.m. for those running for Commissioner of Agriculture, one at 6:30 for the candidates for Lt. Governor, and one at 7:00 for governor.  I have set my DVR to record all three.

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3 Responses to “Flap Over Juan Williams is an Unfortunate Distraction from all of the Good that Public Broadcasting Does”

  1. Kurt Says:

    What I found interesting is that NPR actually reported the whole Williams story, from several points of view. They even asked for comment from their own General Manager (who declined!).

    You think any commercial network would have even touched an in-house flap like that?

  2. Jill Joines Christensen Says:

    I like your definition of conservative, and “When the extremists on both sides claim you favor the other side, you know you are doing something right: you are being fair and balanced.”

  3. Paul Pierce Says:

    Well, said, maestro. I especially like your description of liberal and conservative. I wish more people understood the meaning of those two terms.

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