Back in 1997, an important book was published, entitled PBS: Behind the Screen. The author was Lawrence Jarvik. Writing in the Wall Street Journal op-ed section, James Bowman said that “Again and again, Mr. Jarvik provides examples of dishonesty and hypocrisy at the heart of the public broadcasting enterprise.” Seven years later, the public broadcast establishment is still in business. And guess what? It’s now airing a show featuring members of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. And we’re helping to pay for it.
These days, if you look for something critical of public broadcasting on the Journal op-ed page, you’re more likely to find a notice that members of its editorial board are going to be on a public television station near you. The Public Broadcasting Service airs a show titled “Journal Editorial Report,” a weekly series produced by WNET in New York, the public television station in New York City. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which is federally funded, provided $4.48 million toward production of the program.
The CPB gets about $400 million from the Congress. That is, the taxpayers. Yet the Journal editorial page is considered a bastion of free-market thinking. It favors free trade and opposes government subsidies for business, except when it comes to their own program.
Searching through the archives of OpinionJournal.com, which is associated with the Journal’s editorial page, we found a fascinating October 24, 2003 “Review & Outlook” piece which criticized WNET, the same station that now sponsors “Journal Editorial Report.” The editorial accused the station of distributing a package of materials on human rights that is “pretty much those you might expect to be given by, well, the Democratic National Committee.” The column complained that the list of human rights groups ignored many on the right side of the political spectrum. The column went on to say, “That might not be surprising: WNET is the same station that a few years back was embarrassed when it was found swapping mailing lists with the DNC and a host of other, mainly Democratic groups.”
Now remember that this editorial appeared about a year before WNET started sponsoring the “Journal Editorial Report.” We doubt that we’ll see the Journal running any more editorials accusing WNET of being a Democratic Party front. The editorial went on to say that, “Remember, the people who think this WNET list provides an objective overview of the subject are the same people who can’t keep their brie down when the subject turns to the conservative domination of Fox News or talk radio. But whatever the direction private broadcasters may take, they at least do it on their own dime.” The editorial suggested that Congress cut funding for public broadcasting.
The “Journal Editorial Report” began airing in September. We can only conclude that members of the Journal’s editorial board find the brie to their liking, and that their position now is that cuts to public broadcasting should not include the almost $5 million going toward production of their show.