I know we've all seen bogus petitions for years floating around the Internet about threatened cuts to Public Television. Well, this time it is actually true. A budget proposal by the Republican majority has made it out of committed that threatens to end Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting over the next few years, and significantly reduce the amount of money directly granted to PBS stations. I believe we are speaking about less than a billion dollars in this year's budget here with measurable cultural significance. The Federal Deficit for last year was about 477 billion; there are other, much bigger budgetary fish to fry.
To do my part, I just sent the following note to my Congressman:
Dear Congressman XXXXXXXXXXX,
I write to you tonight to protest recent efforts by elements of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to curtail funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television in general.
I am strongly of the belief that advances in knowledge and human endevor do not exist in a vacuum. It is therefore true that in order to have faster computer chips and fighter planes, we must have an abundance of art and poetry. To say otherwise is to deny something fundamental about the human spirit. We cannot lead the world in technology while letting our artists and writers, great and small, starve. We also cannot deny anyone the opportunity to learn about them.
Yet, I fear that this is the stand taken by some members of the House. They question the need for government to nurture education in the arts and our cultural heritage in the name of "fiscal austerity" and "fairness and balance." Such intellectual pursuits stray far from the preservation of "common sense" and "family values" and represent an active threat to an outlook supporting only black and white answers because the developed mind can discern shades of gray.
At 36 years of age, I feel I owe a lot to PBS. Sesame Street went on the air when I was barely a year old, and certainly helped me learn letters and numbers. Shows such as Nova helped me to cultivate an interest in science and mathematics that led me to a career in software development. Shows like Austin City Limits and Sessions At West 54th brought musical performances that I find memorable. Ken Burns' three epic mini-series "The Civil War", "Baseball", and "Jazz" represent the kind of illuminating television that could never be seen elsewhere.
I know that some will say that these cuts will not threaten a show with a profitable merchandising arm like Sesame Street. That is true in a very narrow sense, but completely misses the point. Public Television was created to be community television and these cuts will force stations to make tough choices. I feel fortunate to live in a major metropolitan area where three fairly affluent PBS stations exist. I grew up in a much smaller city where the local PBS station has already been forced to curtail locally produced programming because of budget cuts during the last 15 years. An additional loss of Federal funding such as the one proposed would be devestating to such a station.
I write to you now as XPBS broadcasts a rendition of Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake" by the American Ballet Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Flipping the channel over to the Arts & Entertainment Network, a supposed for-profit replacement for what PBS offers, I see the reality show "Growing Up Gotti". I know that PBS is far from perfect but, I know that it's like will never be seen again if it goes away.
For these and so many other reasons, please vigorously oppose cuts to funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television.
on 2005-06-20 at 10:09 p.m.
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