NewsHour will now remain open on weekends, with the launch of PBS NewsHour Weekend. Hari Sreenivasan will assume hosting duties, and now, with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff co-hosting weekdays, PBS will be the only broadcaster without a white male anchor on any day of the week. The announcement is certainly a victory for diversity, and a heartening sign that NewsHour is aware and responsive to demographic reality, but recent PBS expansions in news programming, like World Focus (hosted by Mr. Sreenivasan), have failed to find an audience. Younger viewers, who tend to connect to fast, free news content that often breaks over social media, remain the holy grail for PBS. Even if a 24/7 PBS news cycle can get up to speed with the 18-49 crowd, it is unlikely it can count on their support at pledge time in the age of free internet content. Click here to watch a HuffPost Live interview with Hari Sreenavasan. The 30-minute PBS NewsHour Weekend will air Saturdays and Sundays. Check local listings for times.
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Jane Mayer has a great piece in this week’s New Yorker entitled “A Word from our Sponsor: Public television’s attempt to placate David Koch”. It offers a truly enlightening, inside look at the cancers in PBS’ system: its funding, its funders, its internal politics, its convoluted management, and its muddled member station system. Click here to read all about it. It should also be noted that The New York Observer once opined that David Koch may also be calling the shots at the PBS series NOVA. One does have to wonder what motives the Koch brothers have in supporting PBS, as their political ideology clearly abhors public broadcasting and its government subsidy. Let us know what you think is at work here, and stay tuned to this blog as we find the fix for all that ails PBS.
Mr. Romney’s plot to kill Big Bird took center stage in his first presidential debate, igniting a firestorm of outrage in the Twitterverse. PBS CEO Paula Kerger parried with a defense of PBS’ appropriation that, while offering a healthy dose of facts and perspective, only serves to remind us that PBS’ affiliate system lacks the core strength to survive a Romney presidency. Well, we at FIXPBS have long promoted a free market solution for any candidate who wants Big Bird’s endorsement: a simple PBS license fee bundled into basic cable and satellite viewer packages. If every customer in America paid a dollar a month for PBS, we could nearly double its budget and put pledge drives out of their misery. Who could argue against this? For starters, Big Bird gets off public assistance and China can take its grubby mitts off .00012% of our annual federal budget. Cable and satellite providers necessarily get a taste of a brand new fee while other networks keep bleeding them out of licensing revenue. Viewers can tune in with no fear of station managers endlessly plying them with tote bags. Now, making PBS solvent is actually the easy part. Making it relevant, and building it into a centralized network, are taller orders, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
We leave you with this thought, nearly 70% of Americans reject defunding PBS. Imagine the percentage that would support saving PBS once and for all. Count eight-year-old Cecelia Crawford among the yeas:
As Mitt Romney’s budget axe takes a swing at Big Bird, let’s take stock and appreciate that PBS has been fighting for its appropriation from the very beginning. Here’s Fred Rogers in 1969:
Since Newt Gingrich is the GOP primary flavor of the week, let’s consider what his hypothetical presidency might mean for PBS. First, let’s remember that defunding the CPB and privatizing PBS were among Newt’s first agenda items when he rose to power in 1995. He has consistently branded PBS with a liberal bias, even though Pat Mitchell once offered him his own town hall talk show. In short, plastering Big Bird with advertisements may be Mitt Romney’s latest “starve the beast” talking point, but it’s been an article of faith for Gingrich for nearly two decades. As for the fading star that is Rick Santorum, he actually has lukewarm praise for PBS, but still supports cuts to the CPB; just not to direct funding to local broadcasters. Santorum’s logic may seem moderate by comparison, but cuts to the CPB would necessarily hit and hobble local broadcasters, so his thinking is either unworkably muddled or politically barbed. And while libertarian heartthrob Ron Paul has balked on bills to slash PBS in the past, his grassroots minions seem to champion motions like a New Hampshire bill to deny public broadcasting any state money.
Come November, no matter who earns the GOP nomination, defunding PBS and NPR is clearly going to be a platform plank. The time is now to build an unimpeachable case for PBS’ future. For those who care to defend the appropriation, Lawrence Dabney at The Faster Times has posted a rather telling pie chart illustrating the drop in the bucket that CPB’s appropriation actually represents at .003% of the federal budget. Click here and you can also play around with this extremely cool New York Times Treemap of the Obama’s 2012 budget proposal and search for ‘Corporation for Public Broadcasting’. Note that CPB’s appropriation is down nearly 11% from last year at not quite $4 per household. FIXPBS just believes that the appropriation has never been a safe bet, and is, at best, in danger of being negotiated down to Santorum levels of incapacity. We prefer a jujitsu approach that appropriates conservative logic in order to secure PBS a license fee and trust fund in the name of free market thinking.
The Guardian reports that BBC Director General Mark Thompson will likely be stepping down some time after the 2012 Olympics. The race to find a successor is off to a complicated start. The Guardian rightly notes that American executives are not likely to return any headhunters’ calls with the position’s salary on the chopping block, which speaks volumes about how the Brits see our cynical, laggard’s attitude toward public broadcasting. At FIXPBS, we will follow this developing story, and take every opportunity to remind our viewers about the undeniable benefits of a centralized pubcasting network and leadership.