Published March 1995 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd In Behalf of Public Broadcasting
It is unfortunate that, under the guise of budget economy, some in Congress have taken advantage of current debate on reducing the federal budget deficits to suggest the dismantling of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), one of our nation's cultural gems.
Since the early years of television, thoughtful people have sought alternatives to the trash and vulgarity that have increasingly contaminated the television airwaves.
In time, "educational television" laid the foundations for today's public broadcasting stations.
Consequently, as the public television network grew, children in our inner cities and in rural states like West Virginia could be reached by television images that stretched their imaginations, taught them stories by great authors, exposed them to initial concepts in science and arithmetic, and challenged them with mainstream values such as telling the truth, respecting other children, obeying their parents, and becoming good citizens.
The Public Broadcasting System, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and National Public Radio have increasingly filled the voids left by the commercial networks when those networks appeared to turn their backs on good music, drama, public debates, documentaries, and substance and challenge in entertainment.
Indeed, the Public Broadcasting System has evolved into a kind of cultural cutting edge - the pioneering network - that carved the frontiers and plowed the first fields that have provided the market that several other culturally oriented stations are now exploiting.
Lamentably, in commercial television, the bottom line is profit, and until certain kinds of programming prove themselves, most commercial networks are unwilling to take risks on most types of programming — that is, until public television demonstrates the existence of a market for that kind of programming.
I hope that we will think long and sincerely before we punish, dismantle, or destroy one of the most valuable assets in our national cultural treasury, and risk reducing the Public Broadcasting System, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and National Public Radio to bad and ineffectual imitations of our commercial broadcasting networks.
To stifle, shut down, starve, emasculate, or cripple our Public Broadcasting System, by denying it the seed money that guarantees its very survival in some of our most isolated rural communities, would be to kill one of the finest golden-egg-laying geese on the American cultural scene.
March 8, 1995
March 8, 1995