Big Bird v. Bailouts

I would like to bring attention to a very important current event which has deep implications for the health of our democracy. The Federal Communications Commission will soon be presenting a report to the president and Congress, who will eventually make a decision about funding for public broadcasting.

According to a recent FCC hearing, each American taxpayer pays only $1.43 per year toward public broadcasting. Compare that to the $565 each U.S. taxpayer gave to bail out AIG! That $1.43 per year not only keeps Big Bird alive and well for our younger set but also supports a myriad of other great programs, including Nova and Frontline, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Small community radio stations also depend on these funds.

I know not everyone is a fan of these programs, but strong democracies rely on ready availability of news and information so citizens can look beyond the hype and spin of politicians and make informed decisions. Unfortunately, newspapers have been shutting down, and commercial news shows are obliged by their sponsors to pick stories they think will draw the most viewers. So there is an emphasis on the startling and titillating rather than in-depth coverage.

I know money is tight but I fear for our very democracy if public media are not adequately funded. According to the magazine The Economist, the countries that rank the highest on effective functioning of government, civic participation, and civil liberties also have the highest per capita contribution to their public news organizations. The U.S. is #18, while the United Kingdom ranks #3 and has a per capita contribution of $87.

If you share the American values of an uninhibited free press and an informed citizenry, please comment on the FCC website and write your representatives in congress to let them know you support robust funding for public broadcasting. —Denise Lin, MD

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