REMIND ME AGAIN why eliminating taxpayer subsidies for public broadcasting is a right-wing idea?
[sidebar]Liberals are incensed that Congressional Republicans want to strip PBS and NPR of federal funds, but when is the last time they took a hard look at how things are going with our biggest local public broadcasting affiliate? While Tea Party guerillas distract the gullible with theatrical sting operations and spurious debates about liberal bias, the increasingly corporate culture of public broadcasting goes unchallenged — especially in Boston.
WGBH is trying to bust its union. It has paid nothing to the city of Boston in lieu of taxes in four years. Even as it cut wages and staffers in 2009, it spent millions to acquire a second radio station in Boston and then did little more with it than duplicate programming already available from a competing station across town.
This is the crown jewel of the Public Broadcasting System that deserves uncritical allegiance?
WGBH is one of Boston’s last sacred cows, its status as a civic icon as fixed in the collective imagination as that of Harvard, Mass General, and the Boston Pops. Who could take issue with a revered local enterprise that gave us Julia Child, The Victory Garden, and Antiques Roadshow and now produces one-third of PBS’s programming, including such gems as Frontline, Nova, Masterpiece, and The American Experience?
Liberals could and should.
Decades of interminable pledge-week pitches painting PBS as a national treasure entitled to taxpayer support have numbed the critical-thinking skills of what remains of the political left. There is no question that WGBH, and PBS in general, produces compelling, important work that’s in the public interest. But then, so does the Boston Globe, and no one who believes in journalistic independence would endorse the idea of that newspaper, or any other, accepting government subsidies. For the same reason, it is time to wean PBS from its reliance on taxpayer dollars — especially when the frenetic budget-slashing in Congress this spring threatens everything from fuel assistance for the poor to financial aid for debt-burdened college students.
Free-spending WGBH, in particular, has forfeited any claim to a public subsidy.
The behemoth in Brighton — its new 309,000-square-foot headquarters covers two city blocks — relies on the same municipal services as the small neighboring businesses along Market Street. But unlike them, as the Boston Herald has noted, WGBH has not paid the city a cent for fire and police protection or snow removal since 2007. Yes, it is tax exempt. But the station is supposed to pay Boston through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. The check WGBH cut in 2007 for $10,517, according to the Herald, was a tad less than the $245,000 the program calculated it should receive from the station.