Time to End the $422 Million Subsidy for Public Television
It should be noted that an end to federal funds for public broadcasting does not necessarily mean that most PBS and NPR stations will go out of business. Only 15% of the funds for public broadcasting come from the federal government. Most of the support for these stations comes from private donations from individuals and corporations. If public broadcasting depended entirely on government funds, most stations would have gone under long ago.
However, local stations depend strongly on pledge drives. During these pledge drives, the viewers and listeners of public broadcasting determine that the programs they are able to enjoy on public television add such value to their lives that they're willing to give money to keep them on the air. It's through this voluntary action that we have a mostly private public television system.
Congress should make it a completely private television and radio system by phasing out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting over the next two to three years. The left will resist this move for ideological reasons. After all, they've spent many years arguing that we can only have culturally significant television and radio programs if the federal government is forcing us to pay for them. Accepting privatization would mean conceding that myth has been busted.
The good news is that there is some momentum for privatization. After all, the president's deficit commission actually recommended eliminating all funding for the CPB by FY 2015. In terms of the dollars involved, eliminating funding for the CPB will have a minimal impact on our long-term fiscal problems, but it represents a key gut-check for fiscal conservatives. If Congress can't bring itself to disappoint fans of Mr. Bean and The McLaughlin Group by ending an outdated and unnecessary subsidy, how will they ever find the courage to seriously address the issue of entitlement reform and stand up to special interest groups who have greater motivation to fight spending cuts than a fear that Dr. Who reruns will no longer be aired?