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June 10, 2005

A REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR FOR PBS

The Bush-Rove campaign to bring PBS -- the Public Broadcasting System -- under its control, and purge it of non-Republican and liberal elements, continues. A former co-chair of the Republican National Committee is the likely next head of the Public Broadcasting System, the Washington Post reported yesterday. Patricia de Stacy HarrissonPatricia_stacy_harris  (photo right), a former lobbyist, "was co-chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1997 until January 2001, helping to raise money for Republican candidates, including George W. Bush," said the Post, adding that the selection of Harisson to head PBS is expected to be made by the board of the tax-payer-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting "which is dominated by Republicans" -- at the board's next meeting, scheduled for June 20-21.

The Bush administration's attack on PBS has been intensifying ever since Bush's new Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, led an attack on the PBS Series "Postcards from Buster" -- the children's show starring a cartoon rabbit) for airing a program that featured two lesbian mothers in January (see my article, Postcards of Intolerance: Bowing to the Buster Christers' attacks on Gays," in the February 4 L.A. Weekly.) Next, there was the censorious gumshoeing and Bill_moyers pressure campaign against Bill Moyers (photo left) and his PBS series "NOW," a harassment plot which Moyers recounted in a much-publicized speech to the National Conference for Media Reform in mid-May. Moyers said that CPB Board Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson -- a former editor in chief of the Readers' Digest -- "surrounded himself with right-wingers" on the CPB staff. Moyers said, "I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out for the White House. But that’s what Kenneth Tomlinson has done."

Now, with the impending appointment of Harrison, Republican shackling of PBS will be complete -- and one can expect purges of both staff and what little independent-minded programming remains on the PBS schedule to follow Harrison's official naming to the top PBS post.

The situation at PBS is so serious that leaders of affiliated PBS stations are speaking out in public. The board of Iowa Public broadcasting, in a letter endorsed by the Association of Public Television Stations, wrote to the CPB, saying of the widely-publicized news about the coming appointment of Harrison as PBS head: “We believe strongly that such an appointment would be in absolute contradiction to the concept of CPB as buffer. It would call into question the motivations of everything we do, whether funded by CPB or not.”

So much of PBS programming has been reduced to the anodyne and the non-controversial, and a gaggle of shows that pander to conservative ideology have been already added to the PBS schedule's lineup (like the Weekly Standard's Tucker Carlson and his right-wing propaganda show, and another run by the ideological conservatives of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page) With the appointment of ex-lobbyist and former GOP co-chair Harrison in ten days, the circle will have been closed, the Republican control of PBS will be complete -- and there will soon be little left of the old PBS.

Yesterday, a Republican controlled House subcommittee voted to slash funding for PBS by downsizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's budget by 25% -- by reducing from a paltry $400 million to $300 million -- and adopted a plan to eliminate all federal funding for CPB in two years. "Public" broadcasting with federal taxpayer support is thus doomed, if this gets through a House-Senate conference committee (that it will pass the House there is little doubt.)

To find out what you can do to fight the Republican takeover of PBS, consult the fine folks at Free Press, the grassroots media reform group, which has an online petition demanding freedom for PBS from political interference. And let your Congressman and Senators know you want funding for the CPB kept at its current level.

Revealer_logo SPREADING THE WORD ON "THE NEW BLACKLIST":  Jeff Sharlet and the good folks at The Revealer -- the invaluable e-bulletin of the Center For Religion and Media -- have posted a very complimentary writeup of my piece in the L.A. Weekly on "The New Blacklist," and raised a pertinent question in doing so. The Revealer calls me a "hardcore culture warrior, but we mean that as praise -- Ireland gets the goods on his enemies and reports with energy and style. His latest, in the L.A. Weekly, is sure to upset those on all sides who ask why we all can't get along. That's because it's a report on some people who most decidedly do not want to get along, by a journalist who won't ignore the antagonism of politicized Christian conservative activists. His story -- on their boycott campaign against not just gay-friendly companies, but even corporations that commit the crime of employing gay people -- is doubly important, for the facts he presents and for the fact that most of the mainstream press isn't presenting them. One needn't hate the 'Christers' to see this as an important story. So why, with the exception of a few dribbles here and there about anti-gay campaigns against Microsoft, Kraft, and Proctor & Gamble, isn't this a bigger story?"


      

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Comments

Scary indeed. I'd call it "stacking the deck", but it sounds like they're trying to totally change the game.

And in reference to what to call these praticioners of dominionist Christianity, I like the term "Christian Fascist" for two reasons--they're Christian, and they're fascist. I think that does more than just show our disdain, though it definitely does that :)--it is an acurate description. Their goal is the open, naked dictatorship of the same old class forces, but where the old norms of democratic, constitutional rights are thrown out. And from a real material standpoint, that's what fascism is--the openly terroristic rule of the strongest section of the ruling class.

Thanks for staying on top of this and reporting to us out here in God-land.

Posted by: Scott | Jun 14, 2005 1:27:52 PM

As a straight person with gay colleagues, I was horrified (but not all that surprised) by your piece in the LA Weekly on the new gay blacklist. (After all, There have been "Christian" yellow pages for years, suggesting that "Christians" should only frequent businesses owned by fellow "Christians" and not Jews or Hindus or presumably even Catholics.) A linguistic note: I find "Christer" with the -ER suffix -- even though it indicates something other than a true Christian (which again is something other than, more inclusive than self-appointed Protestant "Christians, namely folks like Hans Kung, Albert Schweitzer, Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, etc. ) -- too neutral (like "New YorkER" or "writER") -- and would prefer something with the old -nik suffix like "Christnik" or "Godnik" which would reek of the same distain that attached to the earlier term "Peacenik.")

Posted by: Robert Kirsner | Jun 13, 2005 12:58:06 PM

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