Anti-CPB watchdog wants equal airtime on public stations


It has not gone unnoticed by staffers at Americans for Limited Government that public broadcasting stations are using the time between programs to contact Congress in support of the service. ALG would like equal time to present the alternative view.

In a letter to CPB, ALG President Bill Wilson demanded equal time for an advertisement urging that Congress defund public broadcasting. “The debate over taxpayer funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has clearly reached a level where disparate opposing points of view should be allowed on stations that receive taxpayer dollars to fund programming,” he wrote.

He added, “Currently, television stations that receive taxpayer funds through the CPB, including WETA which broadcasts in the Washington, DC area, are posting a video clip on their website called ‘Let Congress Know How You Feel’ extolling the virtues of public broadcasting and encouraging viewers to contact their Congressmen.”

Wilson said ALG has a 30-second video ready to go, and concluded, “Public broadcasting advocates have loudly proclaimed that you provide a balanced voice for those who otherwise would not have their message heard, now it is time to prove it by running this 30-second piece that balances the position that you are already articulating.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This poses some interesting legal quandaries. Public stations need to promote their sources of income, and we suppose you could argue that this is one way of doing so. And we’re not talking about candidates for office. We have no idea how the Fairness Doctrine would fit in to all of this.

If it turned out that a station would somehow be required to offer equal time to rebut a given message, it would seem they could certainly get around it by making their message part of a legitimate news program – and the battle over public funding would certainly qualify as a hot news item.

However, if we were a public station, we would actually have to consider granting ALG’s request within reasonable time constraints on grounds that an ALG ad on a PBS station stands a very good chance of back-firing. It would underscore that the station is indeed under attack.

The ALG ad would not be going to a receptive audience, it would be going to the station’s audience, and it would be additional strong evidence that the funding and existence of the station is indeed threatened. Instead of forwarding the ALG position, it seems more likely to inspire more of station fans to act than would otherwise.