About the Episode
As Congress considers cutting funding to CPB, putting PBS stations across the country in jeopardy, we examine the possible ramifications on early childhood learning if programs such as "Sesame Street," "Between the Lions," and other educational shows are no longer available.
Statements from Congress about PBS Funding Cuts
Here is a look at how members of Washington state’s Congressional delegation voted on CPB funding cuts, and statements from some members regarding budget cuts. Five of Washington’s Congressmen are members of the Public Broadcasting Caucus -- Norm Dicks, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott, and Dave Reichert.
A Dog in the Fight
In 1989, PBS produced a ten-part series called "Ethics in America." Each episode featured a panel of distinguished guests answering hypothetical questions about ethical behavior. Sticky questions – the kind with no good answer.
One episode called "Under Orders, Under Fire" examined ethical dilemmas in war. Moderator Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor, gave the panel this supposed scenario:
You’re an American reporter covering a war between North and South Kosan. American troops are aiding the South Kosanese. You’ve managed to get behind enemy lines and accompany a unit of North Kosanese. While traveling with the unit, you stumble on a group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. The North Kosanese set up a perfect ambush and are ready to gun down the Americans. What do you do?
Do you stand back and cover the ambush objectively as a reporter, or do you try to warn the ambush victims? In other words -- are you an American first or a journalist?
That show was top of my mind as we here at KCTS debated whether to cover proposed funding cuts to public broadcasting. Congress might eliminate Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which gives money to both PBS and NPR stations across the country.
At first blush, we thought it was inappropriate for us to cover this story. After all, we have a dog in the fight. KCTS receives about 10 percent of its annual budget from CPB. Wouldn’t it be self-serving to cover the issue? We’re journalists first. Inserting ourselves into the story would be the equivalent of warning the ambush victims.
But on second thought, I don’t think that’s the case. The move to de-fund CPB is largely the work of conservatives who feel that NPR and PBS are too liberal and biased against them. They’ve tried to pull our funding before. So what better way to demonstrate just how unbiased we truly are than to cover this story – accurately, fairly, honestly.
We’ll show you how much money you -- the taxpayer -- will save by de-funding CPB, and what you might lose in terms of quality programs like Sesame Street. We’ll show you how much it would reduce the deficit, and how many PBS stations might go under without CPB help. We’ll let you hear both sides and decide for yourself. Because public television actually belongs to everyone.
Turns out – you have a dog in this fight too.
Ethan Morris, Senior Producer
By the way, if you’d like to see how ABC’s Peter Jennings and CBS’s Mike Wallace answered the North Kosan hypothetical, click here to watch the YouTube video.