The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was created in 1967 to “enhance citizenship and public service” and to provide a “voice for groups in the community that may otherwise go unheard.” The original mission of PBS was to provide a forum for debate and diversity free of commercial constraints.
Recently, however, PBS has come under scrutiny for its massive corporate funding and how it affects its broadcasts.
In 2014, PBS received $ 3.5 million from Enron trader and billionaire John Arnold to fund a series about pension peril. The segment featured a ballot initiative that was being pushed in the state to roll back public employee pensions. This campaign initiative was funded by Arnold himself.
An investigative piece from PandoDaily found that Arnold was “actively trying to shape the very pension policy that series claims to be passionately covering.” David Sirota’s expose led PBS to take action on the conflict of interest underlying the original donation.
Following the report, PBS returned the $3.5 million grant it received to “sponsor an ambitious project on public pensions amid charges that it solicited inappropriate underwriting for the series.”
According to the article, Happy Birthday, Public Broadcasting!, PBS has failed in its mission. The article calls the American public broadcasting system “spiritually dead” and in need of reform as a public trust.
The solution for this? Commercial broadcasters footing the bill.
Broadcasting is the only industry in America where you can make money off a public resource and not pay a thing for it. – Lawrence Grossman, former PBS and NBC News President
According to the article, the rebirth of PBS as an independently funded public trust would:
- Take it off the annual federal dole
- Remove corporate sponsorship
- Free service of censorship pressures of private funding
- Give the public a place for alternative views and independent analysis
“It’s time to give it its trust fund. All we need is the political will. Our democracy deserves no less.”