Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

All shriek, no substance

The DNC people are horrified by the fact that the House subcommittee controlling PBS has voted to reduce and eventually eliminate spending on public broadcasting. They tout the children's reading programs as the most important victims of this cut:

But the loss of $23.4 million in federal funds for children's educational shows — which PBS calls its "Ready to Learn" programs — could mean the elimination of these programs, said an official at Alexandria-based PBS who asked not to be named because the network still hopes to regain the funding. PBS's revenue totaled $333 million in fiscal year 2004. The Ready to Learn group includes "Sesame Street," "Dragontales," "Clifford" and "Arthur," among others.
The big shriek is that this plan is antithetical to family values. But the shriek is disingenuous, because of the nature of these children's programs. (I can say this with surety, because I know these programs well, and do think they are excellent and charming.) Why is the DNC crying wolf? Here's why: 1. These are enormously popular shows, and PBS markets them like crazy. Examples are here, here and here. If PBS isn't making money from all these tie-ins, someone needs to be fired. 2. These are not current affair shows. That is, last year's content is not obsolete this year. These shows -- Between the Lions, Clifford, Arthur, Caillou, Dragon Tales, etc. -- can be shown over and over for a hundred years, and still maintain their relevance. This is especially so since the intended audience is constantly renewed. As one 4 year old graduates from these shows to older kids' shows, another 2 year old begins watching. In other words, the stock of programs now available is enough to last forever. There will be no significant added benefit by spending more money on new shows in the same genre. Certainly it would be sad if these shows were edited for commercial television, and shown with the worst kind of commercials interspersed very 4 or 5 minutes. It's unclear to me if the funding changes would have that effect, or at least have that effect immediately. However, if the cri de coeur is that we need to keep making more and more of these shows, that's just a bunch of malarky.