February 13, 2009 [LINK / comment]

I want my M Public TV!

I know times are tough, and everybody who depends on government funding needs to tighten their belts, but does the Virginia General Assembly really need to eliminate state support for public television? Yesterday I received an e-mail alert from the President and General Manager WVPT, David Mullins, who warned:

Public broadcasting in Virginia--both TV and radio--is facing an unprecedented threat thanks to a surprising development in the Virginia General Assembly.

The Senate Finance Committee voted to reduce next year's public broadcasting budget by 10%, which is in line with the Governor's recommendation. We are on record as accepting this reduction because we believe it is fair and consistent with what other organizations will receive.

The House Appropriations Committee took a much more drastic approach. It has voted to ZERO OUT funding for public broadcasting in Virginia, an amount totaling just over $3 million. We had no advance warning that a decision of this nature was looming.

Personally, I have supported WVPT in the past whenever I have had some spare dollars for charitable causes, and I'm a fairly regular viewer. I know that "true conservatives" are not supposed to support government subsidies for broadcasting, especially given the wide range of programs that are available on cable TV these days. George Will often makes that point. Unfortunately, some people can't afford cable, and very few cable channels meet the high cultural standards of public broadcasters. It is a vital institution that provides some much-needed uplifting to our celebrity-obsessed, dumbed-down "MTV" nation. I hope other public-spirited Virginians contact their legislators to stand up in defense of public broadcasting -- "supported by people like you!"

The Augusta Free Press reported on the abrupt budgetary axe wielded by the House of Delegates against public broadcasting in Virginia. (Full disclosure: Chris Graham got me my first gig as a television pundit, on the "Virginia Currents" show which he hosted but was cancelled shortly after my one and only appearance in June 2007.)