For decades, conservatives have been among the taxpayers whose money has been made available in immense quantities to underwrite public broadcasting. Over the years, they have justifiably felt considerable resentment about the fact that very little of that funding – by some estimates as much as $2.5 billion per year – has been expended on projects that warrant their support.
In fact, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its flagship stations (including Washington's WETA) have frequently allowed the public airwaves to be used to promote a variety of agendas with which as much as half the population strongly disagreed. These have included many hour-long documentaries and other programs featuring vitriolic critiques of our government and its leaders, disparaging portrayals of our country's policies and values and flattering portrayals, if not effusive endorsements, of those who share such sentiments.
To its credit, the leadership of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) launched an initiative several years ago to diversify the sources of documentary films in the hope of bringing different perspectives to the PBS audience about some of the most critical issues of our time. Thus was born the $20 million "America at a Crossroads" series which will begin airing on the PBS network in eleven prime-time segments starting on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, the original vision of the CPB sponsors of the Crossroads series suffered at the hands of PBS and WETA when the project was turned over last year to the latter organizations to execute. To be sure, a few films about or by people perceived to be "conservatives" were among the 20 selected out of 440 proposals originally submitted as part of a rigorous competition. These included, notably ones featuring former Defense Department official Richard Perle and an outspoken critic of Islamofascism, Irshad Manji.
The rest are mostly from the usual suspects – "Frontline," the New York Times (which recently published a very friendly review of the series) and various PBS-related organizations. Among these is a film about Muslims in America by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions, in which the host of "Crossroads," Robert MacNeil, is a partner. Interestingly, MacNeil's film was not in the original competition; it was added on by PBS and WETA and assigned one of the eleven prized slots in the initial line-up.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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