Thursday, October 4, 2012

Biased Opinion - Typing With a Splint On Is Slow, Plus Thoughts About Public Television

First Things First
My output here is probably going to be a little slower than normal for the next few days. Why? Well, because yesterday while sparring in Tae Kwon Do I dislocated my finger and I have to wear a splint to keep it immobilized for the next couple days. While this doesn't make it impossible to type, it does slow me down considerably. So the posts I am writing are going to take me considerably longer to write than I originally planned.

And Now About Public Television
To give this post some content, I thought I would write a little bit about Public Television funding, and wonder about the place that Public Television holds in American life. In the debate last night Romney announced that among the programs he would cut in an effort to balance the federal budget he would cut funding for Public Broadcasting. As he said "I like PBS, I love Big Bird, and I like you [referring to moderator Jim Lehrer], but I'm not going to spend money on things to borrow money from China".

Right up front I'm going to say that this is a stupid statement for Romney to make. The subsidy for PBS amounts to 0.012% of the Federal budget. As in one-twelfth of one percent of the budget. That's a little more than a thousandth of Federal spending. This is a tiny drop in the bucket. Federal deficits usually run to about 30%-40% of Federal spending. Axing PBS will close the budget gap by just over a quarter of a percent. The fact that Romney identified PBS as one of the programs that he would target to cut demonstrates that he is completely non-serious about balancing the budget and thinks he can pull to wool over the electorate's eyes on this issue. Either that or Romney is so completely clueless about the Federal budget that he thinks that cutting PBS would make a difference, in which case he is entirely unqualified for the job of President. He is either too stupid to understand the budget, or he thinks you are too stupid to understand it. In short, no matter what angle you approach this statement of Romney's from, it marks him as a man unsuited to the job he is running for.

But the question that struck me at this juncture is this: What is public television for? In the past, public television filled a clear need. Public television provided quality children's programs. Public television was where you could see cooking shows and home improvement shows. Public television aired educational and science programs like Cosmos. It was where Americans were able to find British sitcoms. Public television was where you could find episodes of Doctor Who and Red Dwarf. And you really couldn't find any of those things anywhere else on the channel dial.

But that's not the case any more. While Sesame Street appears exclusively on public television, you can find good, educational children's programs on several different stations now. Food Network seems to have essentially killed off the PBS cooking shows, and the DIY Network and similar channels have killed off most of the home improvement shows. Science programs can be found (among other places) on the Science channel. BBC America airs British television. So what I am left to wonder is what niche does PBS fill any more? I loved PBS once. When I sat down to watch television, I would almost always check PBS to see what they were showing, and often I would stop my channel switching right there. But I almost never bother with PBS any more. Not because I am intentionally avoiding it, but because there are other, and in many cases, better options to find programming that I used to turn to PBS to find.

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  1. First, ow. Get better quick.

    Second, public television - you're right. I haven't watched a thing since my kids were little and they watched Sesame Street.

    Cable television offers classic movies, indie movies, cooking shows, children's programming, we have Netflix. To be honest I'm just not sure public television is relevant. Maybe if I was sentimental I'd have some stronger feelings about it... but I'm not. It's kind of like being sentimental about dial telephones or pay phones. I miss them but only because they seem quaint.

  2. @Julia Rachel Barrett: The splint should come off in a few days. With luck, the finger will be back to normal soon too.

    I kind of feel like a heretic concerning PBS. Public television played a large role in my youth. I was almost literally raised on Sesame Street, Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact. When Cosmos ran on PBS, I sat glued to the television every week when it came on. I spent many Saturdays staying up ridiculously late to watch episodes of Doctor Who.

    But it seems that time may have passed it by, and sadly, it may fade into the past.