First, the United States government should not be in the news business at all. Arguments and debates about public affairs should be the province of private citizens. If the government must engage in propaganda in times of war or tension, to sell its policies abroad, the home front should remain insulated from that propaganda.
When director Bruce Herschensohn's brilliant "Years of Lightning, Day of Drums" about JFK's White House days was made by the United States Information Agency, it was only by special dispensation that it was allowed to be shown to the American public.
Second, a U.S. government that has run back-to-back deficits of $1.4 trillion and $1.3 trillion cannot afford the luxury of providing news and entertainment to a nation with hundreds of cable TV channels and hundreds of AM, FM and satellite radio stations, not to mention scores if not hundreds of nationally syndicated radio programs.
Why should taxpayers have to fund a government version of Al Franken's Air America, when the private version went belly up? Let the PBS-NPR elite audience fund its own news and entertainment.
When public television first came on air, there were three TV networks and few cities had more than three TV stations. The case for public television, that the people need "alternative programming," collapses when there are more channels than most of us have heard of, tailored to every conceivable taste and interest.
Consider now the words of Thomas Jefferson: "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
Yet, Congresses and presidents who profess to revere Jefferson have voted for 40 years to force conservatives to pay billions of dollars through CPB, PBS and NPR to propagate leftist ideas that they disbelieve and abhor.
In FY 2010 alone, CPB, which funnels tax dollars to public television and radio stations, received $420 million. The special interests who will fight to shelter these subsidies should not be underestimated. In big cities and on many campuses, there are powerful beneficiaries and articulate advocates of public broadcasting who will paint as troglodytes any congressmen who would poach on these preserves of privilege.
Again, whether a Republican House will zero out funding for public broadcasting will be an early test of its character. If it gives CPB only a haircut and a pat on the head, the tea party folks should start recruiting candidates to run against GOP incumbents in 2012.