Thursday, March 10, 2011

Supporting Woo

My local PBS affiliate is in the midst of a fund-raising effort and I'm of two minds about donating. On one hand, since I don't have cable or satellite and my only supplement to over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts is a $10/month NetFlix subscription, PBS is a significant source of entertainment for me. My favorites include "Masterpiece," "Great Performances," "Nova," "Frontline," and let's not forget "Doctor Who" (which I can now get instantly from NetFlix, but still, I saw it on PBS first). When my niece and nephew are visiting, PBS is a reliable source of shows that I'm comfortable letting them watch. On the other hand, some of the stuff that shows up on PBS is crap.

You'd think that a network focused on art and science and education would be choosy about the programs it airs, and PBS' everyday fare is usually quite good. But during "pledge periods," they trot out whatever will get people to donate. Apparently that includes hours-long specials on how "all health ailments can be linked to an imbalance in the digestive system" (oh good, HIV and basal cell carcinoma can be avoided just by eating right!) and how "we each have the potential to create absolutely everything and anything we want." (World peace and cheap, plentiful, non-polluting fuel. Now, please; I'm running low on gas but the price just shot up another 10 cents.)

In the interest of fairness, I admit that I haven't watched either of these programs, and it's possible that whoever wrote the descriptions for them exaggerated the programs' claims. I understand that the "P" in "PBS" stands for "public," and that part of serving the public is broadcasting shows the public actually wants to watch. But the other side of "public" is "public funding," as in, "My tax dollars and contributions paid for this?" PBS' mission is " create content that educates, informs and inspires." How about adding "...without woo" to that?

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