|This Time It's for real: Save NPR and PBS|
|Netlore Archive: 2005 email flier from the political action group MoveOn.org urges recipients to sign an online petition to save NPR and PBS from defunding by Congress|
Email example contributed by Wendy V., 14 June 2005:
Subject: This time, it's for real: Save NPR and PBS
A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street." This would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting. NPR and PBS are under attack, but Americans trust them over the commercial networks. Sign the petition to save NPR, PBS and our local public stations from losing their funding.
Dear MoveOn member,
You know that email petition that keeps circulating about how Congress is slashing funding for NPR and PBS? Well, now it's actually true. (Really. Check the footnotes if you don't believe us.)
A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.
Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:
If we can reach 250,000 signatures by the end of the week, we'll put Congress on notice. After you sign the petition, please pass this message along to any friends, neighbors or co-workers who count on NPR and PBS.
The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year$100 millionand end funding altogether within two years.1 In particular, the loss could kill beloved children's shows like "Sesame Street," "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Arthur" and "Postcards from Buster." Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.
This shameful vote is only the latest partisan assault on public TV and radio. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which exists to shield public TV and radio from political pressure, is now chaired by Kenneth Tomlinson, a staunch Republican close to the White House. Tomlinson has already forced one-sided conservative programs on the air, even though Tomlinson's own surveys show that most people consider NPR "fair and balanced" and they actually trust public broadcasting more than commercial network news.2
Tomlinson also spent taxpayer dollars on a witch hunt to root out "liberal bias," including a secret investigation of Bill Moyers and PBS' popular investigative show, "NOW." Even though the public paid for the investigation, Tomlinson has refused to release the findings.3
The lawmakers who proposed the cuts aren't just trying to save money in the budgetthey're trying to decimate any news outlets who question those in power. This is an ideological attack on our free press.
Talk about bad timing. Every day brings another story about media consolidation. Radio, TV stations and newspapers are increasingly controlled by a few massive corporate conglomerates trying to maximize profits at the expense of quality journalism. Now more than ever, we need publicly funded media who will ask hard questions and focus on stories that affect real people, instead of Michael Jackson and the runaway bride.
As the House and Senate consider this frightening effort to kill public broadcasting, they need to hear from its ownersyou.
Thank you for all you do,
Noah, Wes, Jennifer, Eli and the MoveOn.org Team
P.S. You can learn more about the threat to public broadcasting from our friends at Free Press at:
1. "Public Broadcasting Targeted By House," Washington Post, June 10, 2005
2. "CPB's 'Secrets and Lies': Why the CPB Board Hid its Polls Revealing Broad Public Support for PBS and NPR," Center for Digital Democracy, April 27, 2005
3. "Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases," New York Times, May 2, 2005
Important Update: On June 23, 2005, the House of Representatives voted to restore part of the public broadcasting funds previously cut from the 2006 budget, and to reverse the committee decision which would have eliminated Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding altogether within two years.
See: House Vote Spares Public Broadcasting Funds
Washington Post, 24 June 2005
Previous Commentary: Unlike the misbegotten "Save NPR and PBS" email petitions of yore, this campaign organized by the Internet-savvy political action group MoveOn.org is well conceived and based on a real, substantive threat to the future of public broadcasting:
On June 9, 2005, a Congressional subcommittee voted to entirely eliminate government funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting within two years (NOTE: this vote was reversed in the House on June 23, 2005; see update above).
The vote "doesn't necessarily put Big Bird on the Endangered Species List," notes the Washington Post, because "House members could restore funding as the appropriations bill moves along or, more likely, when the House and Senate meet to reconcile budget legislation later this year."
Whatever the motive, the vote was real and the cuts, if enacted, would severely limit the reach of public broadcasting, especially to rural areas where local stations rely heavily on federal subsidies.
With its proven track record conducting effective online petition drives, MoveOn.org has taken the lead in combatting the cuts and provides a viable means for public broadcasting supporters to let their voices be heard. Unlike email petitions, which are ineffectual because they're nothing more than glorified chain letters, really, the organization's Web-based form duly records the opinion of each signatory and sorts the results for delivery to the appropriate government officials.
Sources and further reading:
MoveOn.org Petition: Save NPR and PBS
Online petition fill-out form
Public Broadcasting Targeted by House
Washington Post, 10 June 2005
A Different Reception for Public Broadcasting
Washington Post, 20 May 2005
Congress Looks to Defund PBS
NewsMax.com, 10 June 2005
Last updated: 06/24/05