Retired General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that urges Washington politicians to continue our nation's investment in public broadcasting.
Public broadcasting makes our nation smarter, stronger and, yes, safer. It’s a small public investment that pays huge dividends for Americans. And it shouldn’t be pitted against spending more on improving our military. That’s a false choice.
The general emphasizes PBS' role as an educational resource for families with young children. Properly educated young Americans will grow up to make smarter servicemen and servicewomen who will be better equipped to defend your nation.
He also makes a point about the low cost: his numbers suggest that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gets $445 million annually in federal funding. If you use that number to do your math, CPB money supports more than a thousand television and radio stations at a cost of about $1.35 per citizen.McChrystal may have a point about access to educational programming. If the federal government pulls the plug on funding for public broadcasting, radio and TV stations in the big cities will do just fine. Major corporations and well-heeled viewers and listeners will make up almost all of the slack. The stations may have to cut a few corners, but the city folk will make it work.
It's the small stations that serve small towns that may not survive without federal funds. The towns with fewer job opportunities and shrinking health care options will lose one of the few resources that's exactly the same for them as it is for people who live in the large metropolitan areas.
McChrystal also cites articles that says "PBS and its member stations are ranked first in public trust among nationally known institutions." He wants us to keep an institution that he believes brings us together:
We need public media that acts as our largest classroom. We need broadcasting that treats us as citizens, not simply as consumers. We need a strong civil society where the connection between different people and groups is firm and vibrant, not brittle and divided. We need to defend against weaknesses within and enemies without, using the tools of civil society and hard power. We don’t have to pick one over the other.What do you think? On the scale of national spending, funding for public broadcasting is definitely not a big expense. Is the expense worth it (for the kids)? Does PBS make Americans smarter?