KERA President Uses Federal Funds to Argue for… More Federal Funds

Mary Ann Alhadeff, president of KERA, is a swell person. KERA is a swell organization. I am a devotee of 90.1 (and, yes, a donor). After perusing the IRS filings of KERA, I can see why Mary Ann is upset. The government has provided about 12% of her $15 million revenue for the last several years. Now that House Republicans have eliminated the $400 million budget of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, she’s got a major problem. I understand.

Still, her recent on-air appeals for listeners to write their representatives to repeal the cuts are unseemly, if not illegal. She is using taxpayer money to argue for more taxpayer money. She is also promoting specific legislation, a violation of the law governing non-profits, IRS Code 501(c)3.

As for the general principle of federal funding for PBS, it’s time for public broadcasters to understand that we no longer live in 1978. Sesame Street, whose characters are now owned by Disney, is not going off the air. News and information, as well as superb programming, are available from hundreds of sources. Getting to the heart of the matter, do we need Channel 13? And if we do need NPR at 90.1 — which radio sources in Dallas tell me has one of the largest audiences in the city — can’t we find a way to make up for the 12 percent?

The truth of the matter is, $400 million for PBS will make no difference on the deficit. (Cutting the $100 billion supplement for Afghanistan — and, yes, the billions spent on the “war on drugs” — would.) But at some point, we have to instill the discipline to cut federal spending for programs that have served their purpose. PBS has been a magnificent addition to American life, worth every penny we have spent on it. Time to let Big Bird fly out of the nest.

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