The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #873

January 18, 1992

January 18, 1992 | Backgrounder on

Making Public Television Public

(Archived document, may contain errors)

873 January 18,1992 MAKING PUBLIC. TELEVISION PUBLIC INTRODUCTION Faced with huge budget deficits, a stagnant economy and the need to cut taxes on hard-pressed American families, Congress has to take a fresh look at eliminating some domestic programs. High on the list for cutting should be those programs that ought to be private sector enterprises rather than government corporations, and those that al ready have outlived their usefulness.

One program fits both categories, and yet is typically overlooked by lawmakers: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB whose fiscal 1992 budget is a quarter-bil lion dollars The Corporation for Public Broadcas ting is the federally-funded organization that fi nances public television and radio. It is also responsible for enforcing the provisions of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act, which established public television and radio, in cluding the requirements for b alance and objectivity in public broadcasting.

Grants from C2B help fund both local broadcasting stations and national program ming distributed by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS PBS is a private non-profit corporation owned by local non-commercial br oadcasters which provides the daily prime-time programming schedule and manages the satellite interconnection service for non-commercial broadcasting. Funding from the CPB accounts for just under 17 percent of the total spent on public television.

Continu ous Tension. Although in theory a quasi-private body, CPB is in practice a government-controlled corporation with a board of directors selected by the President and confmed by the Senate which must follow congressional mandates to receive continued approp r iations. In the eyes of the law, however, the CPB is a private, non profit corporation, like PBS. The 1967 Public Broadcasting Act explicitly declared CPB will not be an agency or establishment of the United States Government. This has created a no mans l and between the public and privatesectors in which there is 1 Public Broadcasting Act of 1%7 147 USC 396 bl. continuous tension between broadcasters, who desire complete freedom of expression and the laws requirements that there be balance and fairness.

Th e way to end this tension is to make public television truly public by selling the CPB to the private sector, allowing it to operate as a publicly held corporation account able to its shareholders Scrutiny and Criticism. Congress has yet to approve the ne x t he-year budget for CPB, projected at up to $1.1 1 billion-the largest authorization in the Carporations history. Congress has delayed action because the public broadcasting system is facing intense new scrutiny and criticism from both liberal Democrats and conservative Re publicans regarding its discretionary funding, its management practices, and its appar ent lack of concern about balance.

Senator Paul Simon, the Illinois Democrat, for instance, has asked the General Ac counting Office (GAO) to analyze whether CPB could be funded through a tax on tele vision sets, Such a tax, reasons Simon, would eliminate public televisions dependence on congressional appropriations. Simon reportedly also is considering a proposal to ban corporate underwriting of CPB programming because of what he sees as the exces sive commercialization of public television?

Taking a different approach, Representative Phil Crane, the Illinois Republican, last October introduced a bill H.R. 3616) to repeal the statutory authority for t he Corpora tion for Public Broadcasting. Crane argues that funding should end because program ming of the kind broadcast by public levision can flourish in the private sector with out the hand or wallet of Uncle Sam Cranes position finds support in a rece nt Federal Communications Commission FCC) Working Paper entitled Broadcast Television in a Multichannel Marketplace.

Concludes the study 3 Supported by voluntary viewer payments and government and charitable contributions, public television was created as a response to the failure of the advertiser-supported program market to produce programming to suit the tastes of sm a ll audiences. With the advent of commercial viewer-supported programming on cable, many of the needs public television was intended to fill have begun to be met by cable. In the future, government fundin$ of public television may have to be justified on d ifferent grounds.

Competing With Cable. Even a study published by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting itself and conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, a prestigious fm of management consultants, agrees that times are changing for public broadcastin g be cause of cable televisions availability to tens of millions of Americans. Many cable stations carry the education and cultural programs that it was once thought could be provided only by taxpayer-supported public TV. Increasingly, in fact, public TV f inds 2 Public Broadcasting Report, November 22,1991, p. 4 3 Government Has No Business in Broadcasting, Congressional Record, October 23,1991, p. E3528 4 Florence Setzer and Jonathan Levy, Broadcast Television in A Multichannel Marketplace, OFT Working hp e r Series Number 26, FCC, June 1991, p.laOl 2 it difficult to compete with the cable networks for an audience. According to the CPB study, The educational services of public television, which are a central mission of public television, enjoy a smn competit i ve position today, but will face increasing competition in the near future Outspending Public TV. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) no longer is the dominant funding source for quality childrens, cultural or news programming Much more is spent on this by private cable television. The Disney Channel, for exam ple, spends 120 million a year on childrens programming, compared with PBSs $36 million. Similarly, Cable News Network (CNN) spends $164 million on news and pub 5 lic affairs, compkd with PBSs 63 m i llion. Explains the Boston Consulting Group The most efficient and effec tive medium for the distribution of educational video materials is no longer terrestrial broadcast television. Cable, cassette, satel lite broadcasting, and 1 er disc are superior me t hods. sr The PBS system operates mainly through terrestrial broad casting, which means satellite relays and ground transmission A large portion of public televi sion expenditure thus is de and expensive distribution sys tem rather than to producing progra m ming. The strong con clusion of the report: terrestrial broadcasting is beaming obso voted to running an outdated 1~te.9 Chart 1 PBS and Cable Spending Patterns 1989 160 r olluo NM and Publlo Alfalra 8olmoe and Natun 1 Total pes 261 million Toid Coblr: $3 611 million Now ALE 9 Arlo end Enlertalnment. CNN Cabla New Network 8ouro.1 Corporrtlon for PUDIIC Broadcraflng.

ToIel caolr refrra 10 Ihe apendlng of the Ilated channala.

Horltage DataGkrrt Resisting Audits. There are growing worries, meanwhile, that PBS does not abide by its legal obligation to assure balance and fairness in its programming. These con cerns can only be proved or disproved by a thorough review of the systems program ming. This should be undertaken before any more taxpayers money is relea s ed to the CPB. Yet the Corporation strongly resists any audit of its programs. In the future moreover, to assure fairness and balance, the public broadcasting system should be subject to the same scrutiny by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as t he commercial networks 5 Boston Consulting Group, Strategies for Public Television in a Multichannel Environment, Corporation for 6 IM p. 9 7 IW p. 13 Public Broadcasting, Washington, D.C March 1991, p. 1 3 HOW PU Even with these reforms, however, taxpaye r -supported public television still would be a highly bureaucratic relic of the 196Os, a period when the grip of the three major comercial networks seemed to rule out future competitors. Today, entrepreneurial cable stations deliver a vast range of cultura l, news, and foreign programs that was un thinkable when the public system was created.

Broadcasting, taxpayers should demand the CPB be privatized, and financed by public stock ownership.

High Quality Competition.The private sector can deliver educationa l and cultural programming of high quality, equal or better to that provided by PBS and funded by CPB. There are several examples of this. In Britain, licenses were awarded to indepen dent private broadcasters last year after an auction in which one requi r ement was a quality threshold. In France, the government television networkTF- 1 was privat ized in 1987 by the Socialist government of President Francois Mitterrand. It now com mands 43 percent of the television audience and earns a profit of $55 million a year9 American public television today is a solution in search of a problem. It no longer has a mission. While a government-funded public television system might have been needed as an alternative to the network monopoly in the 1960s, the growth of the m ulti channel marketplace in the 1980s makes todays public broadcasting system unneces sary and wasteful Rather than pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the Corporation for Public BLIC TELEVISION AVOIDS TAXPAYER ACCOUNTABILITY Public television prese rves certain assumptions about so-called market failure and alleged shortcomings of private enterprise that were widely held when the service was founded in 19

67. It is the false nature of these assumptions, made evident by the pro found changes in television, that undermine the principal argument for a government funded network.

Public television evolved out of the National Educational Television network set up by the Ford Foundation in 1951 to utilize broadcast band widths reserved for educa tional inst itutions. By the time NET was fully operational in the 1960s, it was con ceived as an explicit rebuke to ostensibly low-quality commercial television.

Insulation from taxpayer accountability was built into the public broadcasting sys tem at its creation. To circumvent possible criticism of official government propa ganda operations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was set up. A private, non profit corporation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would transform annual government appropriations into private funds for speech protected by the First Amendment. To allay fears of a centralized fourth network of the government which might cut into the market share of commercial netw rks, the public broadcast ing system was committed to what was called localism. 18 8 David Docherty, et al., Keeping Faith? Channel Four and Its Audience, Broadcasting Research Unit. London, 1988 9 Variery, October 8,1990 10 John Witherspoon and Roselle Kovitz, A Tribal Memory of Public Broadcasting: Mission, Mandates, Assu m ptions Washington, D.C CPB, July 1986 p. 26 4 Core of the System. There were several reasons for the stress on localism. For one local educational broadcasters were around long before PBS. For another, different local systems were owned by different types of bodies: some by municipalities, with others by school boards, universities, and non-profit foundations. Thus the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 made explicit that the local educational station was to be the core of the public broadcasting system.

Perh aps the most powerful reason for the emphasis on localism was that politicians and public television producers simply did not want to give up their media outlets to a central authority in Washington. Currently there are 341 stations broadcasting PBS pro g r amming of these, 49 percent are owned by community organizations or non-profit foundations 32 percent are owned by colleges and universities; 13 percent by state au thorities; and 6 pement by local bods of education or municipalities. l1 As the CPB steeri n g committee notes for the Boston Consulting Group study state: To bmow from former House Speaker Tip ONeill who said all politics is local, so far as our viewers are concerned all programming is local the centralized PBS program bureaucracy and CPB staff. The local managers com plained about what they felt was anti-Nixon programming by the central bureaucracy.

One result of these tensions was that Congress in 1973 decided to give a substantial part of CPBs appropriations directly to the local stations, byp assing the controversial national television bodies. These stations then purchased programming from PBS CPB did retain a small discretionary budget forprogramming, and the responsibility to oversee public broadcasting. Local stations then voted on the PBS national schedule toward which they paid a share. They also were free to purchase additional program ming on their own Under this procedm, PBS used money from local stations to purchase distribution rights to programs, but was officially farbidden to prod u ce them. productions were funded by a variety of sources, including the CPB Bypassing the Board. Until 1980, the CPB gave grants directly for individual pro grams and series, But in the wake of the election of Ronald Reagan, with urgin from Geoffrey Cowan , who had been appointed to the CPB board by Jimmy Carter! the board established a Program Fund with a staff authorized to finance productions in dependent of the board. The board would refrain from program decisions and only es tablish priorities l4 This p eculiar set-up, with a board responsible for programming yet declining to par ticipate in the process, continued until 1988 when the CPB signed a new contract with PBS. This moved responsibility for the CPB program fund entirely away from the CPB board an d permitted programming decisions to be made centrally at PBS in consulta tion with CPB program fund head Don Marbury. Under this arrangement, since 1989 3,912 During the Nixon Administration, tensions grew between local station managers and 11 Facts About PBS (Alexandria,VA PBS, February 1991 p. 2 12 Boston Consulting Group, Steering Committee Users Guide to BCG Study, p. 18 13 Geoffrey Cowan, personal interview 14 Report to Accompany HR 2977 PublicTelecommunicaticms Act of 1991, Report Number 102-363, USG PO, p.12 5 Public Television: Tracking the Flow of Dollars All.flgures for 19

89. Millions of Dollars Source: The Corporation for Publlc Broadcasting from $16 million to $24 million has been given by CPB to PBS directly.These funds have been mixed in with $78 million pooled from local stations This money is devoted to airing public interest programs and ostensibly is person ally controlled by PBS chief programming executive Jennifer Lawson, previously the director of the CPB program fund. Lawson is free of any control by Congress. Ac cording to a PBS spokesman, PBS president Bruce Christensen does not involve him self in programming decisions.6 Thus public funds are being channeled into public television with no accountability to the taxpayers for either ma n agement or programming PRIVATE PROFIT WITH GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY A system of centralized programming and managerial authority, paid for largely by taxpayers but in the hands of an unelected bureaucrat, has great potential for abuse. Be cause of the byzantine name of the financing mechanisms which evolved over the years from the political horse-trading between the stations, CPB, PBS, Congress and the White House, a small group of public television insiders have reaped huge financial rewards from public televis i on. Writing in the New Republic, journalist Andrew Fergu son notes that, the flow of funds within the hermetic world of publicTV is one of its tightest secrets 15 Jack RobextieUo, PBS Gives Final Appval to Centralized Funding Plan, Cwent, December 3,1990, p. 1 16 John Grant, telephone interview 6 Some measure of PBS rewards can be taken. Bill Moyers, for example, has sold 200,000 cassettes of his television productions through PBS Video, which pays a 30 percent royalty to Moyers and his partner Moyers admi t s to raising $15 million for his production company in connection with his public television activities Money Machine. Similarly, Childrens Television Workshop licenses characters from Sesame Street and other programs to manufacturers around the world, wi t h gross revenues of over a billion dollars a year. The net income of Childrens Television Workshop is approximately 100 million per year, with $40 million alone from Ses ame Street Magazine, which reports some 4.5 million readers. With its taxpayer sub si dy, the Childrens Television Workshop also is developing shows for commercial television.

This money-machine feature of public television is a far cry from the original as sumption that a public system was needed to give access to programming with no com m ercial appeal. And while little concern seems to have been raised about the frequent commercial success of public television programs and related products, it raises obvi ous questions 18 19 What is the rationale for taxpayers supporting a system with suc h Why not progressively transform it from a public to a private commercial appeal enterprise?

The success of public TV products seems to indicate that there is a genuine public demand. Moreover a great number of outstanding public television programs enjoy strong commercial sponsorship as well as healthy revenues from commercial sales.

Among these are The Civil War, sponsored by The General Motors Corporation Nova, sponsored by The Johnson Johnson Company and The Lock heed Corpora tion; Scientific American Frontiers, sponsored by General Telephone and Electron ics; This Old House, sponsored by State Farm Insurance; The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, sponsored by Pepsico and ATBiT; Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Great Perfo r mances sponsored by Texaco; and Masterpiece Theatre and Mys tery sponsored by the Mobil Corporation Prime Advertising Outlet. In addition to privately-sponsored programs and their ancillary products, book tie-ins and the like, as well as local fund-raisin g drives, some 70 major public television stations now sell national commercial spot advertising. Ads appear for Mercedes and Volvo and for American Airlines, Hertz Kraft Foods, and Starkist Seafood. Many of these advertisements, called enhanced underwriti ng are sold by Public Broadcast Marketing Inc PBM a private firm which reports gross bill ings of approximately $2 million annually, distributing messages to over 55 stations.

Company president KeithThompson told the show business trade newspaper Variety t hat stations could annually sell $50 million to $60 million worth of corporate advertis 17 Andrew Ferguson, The Power of Myth, The New Republic, August 19 26,1991, p. 25 18 Jane Hall, Making His Move: After the 92 election, Bill Moyers will shift his focu s from PublicTV, Los Angeles 19 Telephone interview with Bob Lane, CTW Finance Depamnent, September 30,1991.

Times, October 1,1991, p. F1 7 ing annually within five years. Thompson argues that public television can charge a premium, with a PBS rating worth double or triple of that on a commercial network due to the pristine and uncluttered environment of public broadcasting mit local station breaks of 2 1/2 minutes twice an hour, with PBM allowing one min ute per hour to regional and national accounts?1 In addition to national advertising local commercials are available directly from stations themselves. WNET in New York boasts a client list of 47 corporations. Broadcasting Magazine said of this develop ment, Broadcasters appear to have a new competitor in t heir battle for local ad dol lars: public TV.22 Public television authorities, however, officially deny there is any advertising on the network. An 1990 opinion column in the public television journal Current claimed, for example, that public television h a s no cornrner~ials To this point of view, Broad casting responded recently with an editorial Quacks Like A Duck. Its conclusion We know theyre only extended sponsorship credits, but somehow, the difference between a 15-second sponsorship credit featuring, say, the name and logo of a car man ufacturer and video featuring its latest sports car and a 15-second commercial featuring the name capes us. The trade magazine editorial added that it was blatantly unfair competi tion for private commercial broadcaster s to fight in the marketplace against a govern ment subsidized competitor.

PBS also has a for-profit subsidiary called PBS Enterpr

s, Inc. One of its business ventures, PBS Home Video, grossed $30 million last year.

Many local stations, including WETA in Washington, D.C and WGBH in Boston have for-profit subsidiaries directly competing with private companies offering tele communications services. In short, the public television system is operating an essen tial commercial network. There is just one diffe r ence: it is slated to receive over $1 bil lion by 1996 from the American taxpayer Competition for Ad Dollars. Federal Communications Commission guidelines per d logo of a car manufacturer and video featuring its latest sports car es HOW BALANCE AND FAIRNE S S ARE IGNORED The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 requires the CPB to ensure that public televi sion programs will be made available to public telecommunications entities with strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of progra m s of a contro versial nature. Yet even a cursory survey of public television programs reveals that the law is being violated. Concludes a recent report in the Journal of the Committee for Media Integrity, a viewers watchdog group: For twenty years the fai r ness require 20 Station Sales Rep predicts Boom in Corporate Messages on PBS, Variery, September 14,1990 21 PublicTV Rep Signs New Clients, Broadcasting, December 24,1990 22 Rich Brown, WNET TAPS INTO LOCAL AD BUDGETS: Noncommercial station works hard to w oo commercial 23 John Carey, How PublicTV Beats the Competition, Cunent, December 3,1990, p. 15 24 Broadcasting, November 25,1991, p. 82 25 Michael Nesmith, Eric Sass and Colleagues, Current, December 16,1991, p. 21 dollars, Brwdcasting, November 25 1991, p. 34 8 ment of the Public Broadcasting Act has been systematically ignored by the Corpora tion and its directors.z Analysis Quashed. The CPB fiercely resists attempts to verify if it complies with the law, even when those attempts are initiated by its ow n board members. In May 1986, for instance, CPB board member Richard Brookhiser proposed hiring media ana lyst Robert Lichter of George Washington University to analyze public television pro gramming to determine whether programs had been produced accordin g to the law Board member Sharon Percy Rockefeller vigorously opposed the proposal. She argued that such a study was a threat to the existence of public broadcasting: It countermands the reasons CPB is in existence we are there to assure maximum freedom fr o m inter ference with or control of program content. If this proposed study does not violate that mandate, I dont know what would. Rockefeller went on to claim that objectivity balance, and bias m virtually impossible to define and that the proposed study w ould have a chilling effect on public television. With pressure from Representative John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee which oversees public broadcasting, the Lichte5ytudy was dropped and the CPB board e ventually cancelled the content analysis study.

Even if there were a study of the balance of CPB programs, the Corporations own documents would be of little use since the CPB does not maintain necords of the politi cal perspective of the programs it funds. In response to a recent request from David Horowitz of the Committee for Media Integrity, CPB general counsel Paul Symczak in a July 9,1991, letter declined to characterize the politicsof shows CPB finances adding that the CPB does not get involved in th e content of the individual programs.

As an article in COMINT, the Journal of the Committee for Media Integrity concluded this is tantamount to an admission from the CPB itself, that it makes no effort to bal ance its program funding as the law req~ires Wi thout the documentation, it is im possible to prove or disprove charges that CPB has violated the law by neglecting to abide by provisions requiring objectivity and balance.

It is not merely an issue of documentation. Leading figures in public television ap pear to believe it is their obligation to reject the legal requirement for balance in each program and series. Responding to what Horowitz calls public TVs relentless re hearsal of leftist themes, for instance, Bill Moyers criticizes calls for balance as a demonstration of shrill bias and argues that the duty of public television is not to be balanced itself, but to balance the presentation of public affairs that is broadcast on other channels.

Leftward Tilt, The attitude of Moyers and other leading pub lic television broadcast ers is important in judging whether the CPB abides by the law. Current, the trade jour nal of public broadcasting, reports that Moyers had 21 hours of programming on PBS in 1991 and commented that for fan and foe alike, Mo ers has become the living em bodiment of all that is good or ill in public television. And as the Committee for 29 26 COMlhT,The Journal of The Committee For Media Integnty,Vol. 1, Issue 3, Fall 1991, p. 2 27 Current. January 27,1987, p. 1; Current, December 15,1 9 86, p. 8 28 COMIhT.Vo1. 1, Issue 3, Fd 1991 29 Bill Moyers, To the Right Wingers of COMINT, Current, May 27,1991, p. 19 9 Media Integrity argues, there are no prime time series to balance public affairs shows produced by Moyers, P.O.V or Frontline. The Co m mittee also charges specials such as Making Sense of the Sixties and LB J. as having a clear left of center tilt?l Insuring Compliance. Disturbing em of judgment by public television and evi dence of bias in programming should alarm Congress and prompt th e lawmakers to take action to insure that public television complies with the law. In pusuit of this, Con gress should investigate CPBs compliance with the principles of fairness and balance contained in the law and delay disbursement of any new money to t he Corporation until that study is completed.

Furthermore the determination of CPB bias and balance should in future rest with the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees political pTpamming in the private sector. In the 1975 case of Accuracy in Media Inc. v. FCC, the District of Columbia Circuit Court ruled that in the case of public television, interpretations of balance and fairness were to be left to the jurisdiction of the CPB and to Fgngress. The decision stated that the FCC has no jurisdic t ion over public broadcasting broadcasting television or radio, given the abject failure of the CPB to fulfill its regula tory role, thus would be through legislation transferring the responsibility for assuring balance and fairness from the CPB to the FCC The best way for Congress to enforce the fairness doctrine in the case of public SOLUTION: PRIVATIZE PUBLIC BROADCASTING For two decades, reformers have tried to change the public broadcasting system, call ing for more fairness, honesty and integrity. The y have all failed.

The basic reason is structural. The present public broadcasting system is a private corporation which depends on public tax revenues. Such a contradiction leads to end less confusion and disputes between broadcasters concerned primarily with indepen dence and free speech and lawmakers who must assure that the taxpayers dollars are spent according to law.

Designed during the Gxeat Society of the 196Os, public broadcasting is a bureaucrat ically complex subculture that remains impervious to reform, and it continues for its ra tionale on an assumption about television-that only public television can carry ce r tain educational and cultural programming-that is rendered obsolete by the explosive growth of cable television. Despite being on the receiving end of federal tax dollars the CPB staff are hostile to objectivity and balance, and guard their secrets caref ully.

CPB general counsel Symczak has refused to release to researchers even the minutes of supposedly public board meetings.FCPBs Chairman, Marshall Turner, has de 30 Current, December 16,1991, p. 13 31 COMINT, Fall 1991, p. 9 32 521 f. 2d 288 C. CK. 1975 33 Gillmor, et al Mass Communication Law: Cases and Comment, Fifth Edition, West Publishing, 1990, pp. 846-7 34 Letter to author, December 18,1991 10 fended this policy of stonewalling, tellin the Pittsburgh Post Gazette There axe some things the public d oesnt need to know Increasing Accountability. The logical and practical solution to the public televi sion mess is to make public television private. Given the increasingly commercial na ture of the giant enterprise known as public television, and the cul t ural offerings of many cable stations, the American public probably would not even notice the differ ence. Once privatized, however, PBS programmers no longer would be able to indulge themselves with the taxpayers money, and the federal deficit could be r educed.

Privatization actually would increase the public accountability of the system, as stock holders would be entitled to information now hidden by the CPB from taxpayers.

Privatization could be achieved by selling the Corporation for Public Broadcasti ng to the public as a publicly-held corporation with stockholders. In such a structure, PBS and National Public Radio would be partially owned subsidiaries of CPB. These sub sidiaries also could be sold, if required The Community Service Grants, currently pay able to local stations, would be the equivalent to the network compensation received by commercial affiliates.

A fully private Carporation for Public Broadcasting would have a target audience ex tremely attractive to advertisers-upscale, affluent, and educated viewers and listen ers. It also would be subject to the same market pressures and regulatory restrictions as any commercial network.

European Examples. Such an arrangement is not without precedent. In Britain Channel Four was successfully establ ished in 1982 as a public service and educational broadcasting channel owned and operated by the private sector, the ITV television companies. It supports itself through advertising. It reaches approximately 10 percent of the British audience, four to fiv e times the average share of PBS.

In The Netherlands there has been a similar transformation. The board of directors of public television network VERONICA TV voted to take the station into the commer cial s tor and run its one television channel and two ra dio channels as for-profit enter- prises. ?6 Most dramatic is the case of TF-1, the French government channel sold in 1987 to private investors headed by Bouygues S.A. The previously moribund channel now dominates the French television market, with 43 per cent of the national audience. In 1990, it reported net profits of 55 million-in a far more regulated commercial envi ronment than found in the U.S.

As the Corporation for Public Broadcasting noted in an internal memorandum most of the worlds public broadc asters have gun to accept advertising by the mid 1990s many will be fully commercial. This commercialization is driven by a quest for truly free speech f5 37 35 Barbaxa White Stack, Station is Wary with Financial Data, Pirrsburgh Post Gazerre, October 23, 1 991, p.5 36 SandraVan Beek, VeronicaTV to go commercial, The HollywoodReprrer, November 5,1991 37 Jacques ffeher, The Battle Over FrenchTV: profits vs. Culpm The New YorkTimes, August 12,1991, p. D8 38 Memorandum: Intemational PublicTeleVision in the 1990 s and a US Strategy for the Future, CPB, November 7 1991 11 And a free market in public television has other advantages. The private sector can deliver far more efficiently and economically than the public sector. Privatizing public television will not onl y make it more public, it will also help to cut the federal deficit.

The millions of dollars poured into the public television pork-barrel from both the pub lic and private sectors will be freed for better uses CONCLUSION The current public broadcasting sy stem is obsolete, overly expensive, and doomed to be the center of continuous political controversy. So long as taxpayer dollars go to a system without taxpayer accountability, conflicts are inevitable, and decisions will be made with an eye to political expedienc;y ether than to efficient operations or quality of service.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting should be sold to the private sector. Such a change not only would yield revenues to the government which would be of help in m ducing the deficit , but it would free public broadcasting to serve the broad range of tastes found in the American public. The precedent has been successful in Britain and France, countries with long histories of socialism.

Privatization provides the means to clean up the public television mess by creating incentives for excellence, efficiency and accountability. It is time to privatize public television.

Lamnce Jarvik, Ph.D.

Bradley Resident Scholar Heritage research inm Jennifer Gately contributed to this study 12

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