A Plea for Big Bird

I live in a television desert. We use an antennae to get what, until the advent of cable, everyone got: free TV. We rely on the networks and public broadcasting for our television connection to the world.  It’s mostly where we get local and national news.  Public broadcasting is the oasis in that desert of black and white Gidget reruns and prime time pop: we regularly consume the News Hour and other public affairs programming including Need to Know, which did a powerful segment on the diversity of what is known as “the Hispanic vote.” It featured an intelligent and lengthy interview with a Republican Latina about how Romney and Hispanic voters share conservative values when it comes to family and marriage. (Hmmm..I thought PBS was liberally biased.) It is also a connection to alternative music and arts media including Austin City Limits, which is on right now featuring Bon Iver*, and documentaries like Precious Knowledge, the documentary about the Arizona ethnic studies controversy that I wrote about in an earlier post.

My radio station of choice is NPR for similar reasons.  WHRO is my local station for both television and radio.   And, I support them with a contribution each year, only wishing I could give them more as funding in the state was cut by 25% under Governor McDonnell.  Eleven employees of the Richmond, Virginia, affiliate lost their jobs.  They were mostly part of the educational services department, which means that local schools were also affected:

Monk said six of the 11 positions are from the educational services department; the stations will stop technology training for teachers, engineering support for schools and the statewide EdTech Conference, a seminar for educators on using technology in teaching.

I realize that government has to get serious about spending and sometimes that means things we think are important cannot be funded, but it seems like such a small amount of money for something that, if you can’t afford or don’t want to pay for television, makes a huge difference in your quality of life with the kind of programming that just won’t be developed commercially.  I mean, just look at what passes for “history” on cable: the History Channel features shows like Pawn Stars and Swamp People.  At least in the former show, people bring in historical artifacts.  The latter is about a family that lives in the swamps of Louisiana.  Here’s the history piece: “Through the Swamp People, we learn the stories of Cajun style survival rich with language, food, music, and generations of shared family experiences.” Try typing “cajun” into the search box at PBS and you get a long list of intelligent, in depth programs.

I encourage you to support your local stations. It’s easier for legislators to get away with cuts when they can point out that many of the viewers won’t pay to support it.  How important can it be?  If it’s important to you, I encourage you to make some kind of contribution.  You’ll be supporting much more than just the next season of Downton Abbey.  PBS does work in schools and the community, work that, like their programming, will not be replaced by the private sector.

*Justin Vernon, lead singer, just said that Austin City Limits was the only real music show he knew about in the United States.



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