On November 18 the Wall Street Journal ran an 1,800 word editorial about itself, titled “PBS and Us.” The Journal announced that its public TV show, Journal Editorial Report, would be going off the air. Millions of taxpayer dollars had been spent on this production but few people watched it. And the effort to get this show on the air was one reason why Kenneth Tomlinson resigned as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The occasion of the editorial was a report from the CPB Inspector General into Tomlinson’s activities as chairman.
The Journal went to Tomlinson’s defense, and we do as well. Tomlinson’s intention all along was to try to balance the liberal line-up on public TV. As the Journal put it, “The real story is that Mr. Tomlinson was a rare political appointee who took seriously CPB’s mandate to pursue balanced programming.” The Inspector General found that he had gone about this in the wrong way. But Tomlinson was given a paradoxical task?the CPB was supposed to make sure the programs it funds are balanced and objective but the CPB is not supposed to get involved in day-to-day programming decisions. Clearly, Tomlinson had worked to get the Journal Editorial Report on the air. He wanted to add some balance to the public TV line-up.
His mistake, in our opinion, was deciding to combat liberal media bias by spending taxpayer dollars on a conservative show. That’s where he went wrong. And that’s where the Journal went wrong, too. The Journal, part of the massive Dow Jones media conglomerate, should not be receiving taxpayer dollars for anything.
When we said that few people watched the show, we weren’t kidding. But this is not necessarily because it was a bad show. The Journal itself noted that “The last time we checked, PBS stations in eight of the top 30 TV markets don’t run the show at all, and another four do so in the dead zone of the post-midnight morning.”
This is more evidence of the liberal bias of public TV. It proves that this area is not hospitable to conservatives.
The tragedy is compounded by the perception that because it had a show on public TV, the Journal pulled back from its previous harsh criticism of the public broadcasting bureaucracy. In fact, the Journal used to run some very good editorials critical of public TV and radio but they disappeared when the Journal Editorial Report was on the air.
Now that the Journal is pulling the plug on its show, we hope we can anticipate a return to some hard-hitting editorials on the Journal’s editorial page urging the complete de-funding of the public broadcasting establishment. The solution to the bias problem is to cut off the federal funds.