Paul Jacob

That some folks or most folks or nearly everyone fails to see a bias in public TV and radio matters not at all to me. Part of my day job is dealing with the media and that requires some consideration of where media outlets and personalities are coming from. I've been interviewed countless times by people at PBS or NPR. There is no slant more socialistic, and more consistently so.

This has never surprised me. Publicly funded media is socialistic, so it doesn't seem odd at all that those working for such entities might have a stronger belief in socialism than even the very liberal folks at privately owned big media outlets.

There is bias in news reporting and there always will be. That's hardly the problem. The problem is forcing people to pay for the bias and propaganda with which they disagree. As Jefferson once wrote, "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical."

This sort of tyranny has become a fixation on the left. Leftist artists cannot seem to enjoy their craft without the controversy that comes from forcing people who are offended by it to pay the bill. Leftists also want public financing of political campaigns, so that Americans are forced to pay to promote political views they oppose. Of course, this could just be a pragmatic decision based on the realization that they cannot raise funds voluntarily.

And too, the liberals who predominate at PBS and NPR are likely much happier pretending that they work in a commercial-free sector where they can escape having to do programming based on what customers with their filthy money might desire. This is a charade, of course, since ads from big corporations make up a huge chunk of PBS's support. But still, they do pretend.

And so when someone suggests public TV and radio must pay attention to those paying the bills ? taxpayers in this case ? they resist.

"This is not a controversy I brought to public broadcasting" Chairman Tomlinson recently told The Washington Post. "All I'm trying to do is advocate that both sides be fairly represented. There is a perception among a lot of politically sophisticated people that that balance is not always there."

Mr. Tomlinson has a strong point, of course. Just the wrong point.

First, he suggests that every political or cultural issue has just two sides. The world is more complex than that. Which is why the free-market has produced an enormous array of media choices. All funded by individuals voluntarily investing to reach an audience that doesn't have to pay for it unless people freely choose to do so.

Second, Tomlinson embraces the concept that the government ought to be in the business of media. Whether government funding creates a left-wing or a right-wing bias, it is not just money wasted, it is money that undercuts the free marketplace of ideas.

Mr. Tomlinson says that "a lot of my friends are against taxpayer support." Now, I don't know Mr. Tomlinson from the Man in the Moon, but I certainly like his friends. (And they'd no doubt like my Common Sense e-letter.)

Let's cut the cord between government and media. Let's end taxpayer subsidies for TV and radio ? and columnists, for that matter ? forever. We don't need a more balanced Pravda. We need to make Pravda, PBS, and NPR private.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.