Want to Save PBS? Make it Pay-Per-View

Poor Nina Totenberg. Her name has been attached to the most widely, albeit politely, spammed email ever about the NEA, NPR and PBS. I’m sure that if you have any liberal friends with email, you’ve gotten it 57 times already—it warns about the effort in Congress to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio and Public Television. It urges you into action (by signing and forwarding the email) and validates itself by citing a report on NPR by Nina Totenberg.

 

This missive has been circling since January 1995, when good old Newt Gingrich (remember him?) and his Contract on America crowd wanted to eliminate funding for the NEA. For years, Jesse Helms had been trying to stop artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, and Karen Finley from committing “immoral” acts with govm’nt money, as opposed to the morally adulterous Gingrich, et al., who get their federal funding via direct paycheck deposit.

 

Anyways, my calculations put the percentage of the NEA’s tiny budget that Ms. Finely received at 0.001875%. Damn her. My kid needs lunch money. Stop her before she performs again.

 

In 1995, Congress, led by the Gingrich who stole Christmas, gutted the NEA by 40% and ended all grants to individual artists, except to writers. The paltry remainder of the money goes to museums, but mostly to big institutions like the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center. Can you imagine the outrage if they stop being subsidized? But that’s another story. My point is, stop forwarding me the email.

 

If the petitioner who sent it to you really cared, wouldn’t they know they were 5 years late? The NEA is not going to be shut down by some ultra-conservative reactionary group of artist haters. Those groups are too busy trying to name things after Reagan. The NEA budget is too small for anyone to care about at this point. I mean, the budget for military bands is bigger—and they only know three songs.

 

With nothing to do since Clinton can no longer be impeached (or can’t he?), a reactionary group conceivably could want artists to obsess about losing the NEA, and they could want liberals to dread losing NPR so much that these folks would be blind to other things—like, say, appropriating 200 billion dollars to an un-needed missile defense system, or, perhaps, naming the aforementioned system the National Endowment for the Failed Ronald Reagan Star Wars Initiative.

 

But back to the problem with NPR and PBS—public television is supported, in part, by viewers like you. And you, on average overwhelmingly provide little viewing and even less supporting. So the Federal Government has to fund it just to keep it on the air. Since we the American people don’t want our government to spend our tax dollars on anything socially beneficial, we need to find constructive ways to fund the system, in order to give it a future.

 

My answer is to make PBS Pay-Per-View.

 

Since the Federal Government controls the airwaves (the FCC is headed by Colin Powell’s son Michael), it conceivably can fully decide what goes on TV and what does not. The FCC could thus take the top money-grossing shows and “regulate” those shows, or make ‘em run on PBS Pay-Per-View. That way, as the name implies, viewers like you, would have to pay-per-view.

 

No more fund drives, no telethons, no more coffee mugs for pledges under 65 dollars. Just simple Pay-Per-View, uniting the atheistic artist to the God-fearing artist hater. No on is forced to watch it; no one is forced to pay. It could be called the Ronal Reagan National Pay-Per-View Public Television Initiative.

 

Nevertheless, even a Reaganite would admit that to control broadcasting wreaks of censorship. People shouldn’t be censored. We need our freedom. That’s what both First Amendment groups and the NEA are fighting for. I mean, television now provides people with things they need, like their news, their divorce court, their “Friends,” their gossip, and chance to be a millionaire by either answering TV-centric trivia or by not being voted off the set. That’s why in the Ronald Reagan National Pay-Per-View Public Television Initiative, there would be no censorship.

 

To be fair, the real cries of censorship come not from Tipper Gore, but from Hollywood itself. And those cries are not really about censorship; those cries are about money. No one in Hollywood likes NOT to be able to make more and more money. It’s as un-American as those red-Commie-artist bastards who are raping the US for 0.001875% of a next-to-nothing NEA budget.

 

If network executives, however, were allowed to make money on PBS, they would flock to it. There would be convertibles and SUVs lining the block outside the PBS. A cottage industry of transportable schmooze support would spring up. You’d need a whole new federal agency just to read “spec.” scripts.

 

All political disagreements would be solved on TV. Imagine, if you will, all the bi-partisan wounds that television could heal. Even the tough questions become easy. Should there be a federal death penalty? Put the executions on PBS Pay-Per-View and let the Neilsen ratings decide. That’s “Govern-utainment.” I tell you, if they had put the McVeigh execution on Pay-Per-View, the cash cow would have been milked.

 

It is simple demand side-economics. Currently, the government passes rules that in effect give control of the media to 4 companies who in turn put money in the pockets of politicians who then decide where the money goes. On the other hand, PBS Pay-Per-View puts the money directly back into the system, directly where it’s needed most—the development of new TV shows. Of course, the excess money might “trickle-up” to social programs like, say, maybe hiring at least one art and one music teacher per 2000 students, or something crazy like that. Politics are odd and difficult to predict. TV, though, always follows the money. Here are a few shows ready-made for the new Ronald Reagan National Public Television Initiative:

 

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE PRESIDENT? The Supreme Court Justices, here known as the Supremes, sing and dance their way around the Constitution. They ask questions of what would appear to be a randomly selected participants (but are secretly all white male millionaires). If the millionaire gets all the questions wrong, he gets to buy the presidency (or the next available highest office).

 

THE FIRST AMENDMENT SHOW. This is classic Public Television. Anyone can get up and say anything. Anyone can stand up and do anything. You never know what’s up next, and it’s shown completely uncut and uncensored. Viewer discretion is advised, but not encouraged.

 

THE SECOND AMENDMENT SHOW. A three-hour long weekly drama starring Charlton Heston. Each week a guy who thinks he’s Moses gets tossed into a town of people who favor gun control. With slow-motion kick-boxing and long angry speeches into the camera, he convinces most to join his side. But there’s always one who gets challenged to meet the NRA president at 10 paces. The do-gooder is then shot while trying to remove her child safety lock.

 

SNAGGED BY AN ANGEL. Hosted by Pat Robertson, this program is like “COPS” meets “Battle of the Network Stars.” Each week a group of illegal border crossers are rounded up and matched with a daytime Emmy-nominated actor. Together they compete in the three-legged race, the tug-of-war, and the obstacle course. The winners get a green card and “extra” role on their favorite soap, and the losers are deported.

 

RIGHT HERE; RIGHT NOW. A nightly late night talk show hosted by House Majority Whip, “Hot Tub Tom” DeLay. H snaps the audience into shape with his Biblical insight and rope tricks. He explains why, after years of boozing, over-eating, chewing tobacco, and womanizing, he has the right to lead the religious right. Guest hosts include other moral leaders, Rush Limbaugh, New Gingrich, Marylin Manson, and the Church Lady.

 

MOVIES OF THE WEEK:

 

THE STARR REPORT—The Director’s Cut.

VOODOO ECONOMICS—The Tax Cut.

NATIONAL FOREST—The Clear Cut.

and,

THAT’S MY BUSH—Bought directly, as is, from Comedy Central.

 

As for the last one, I say, Hey, Mr. President, if they’re going to laugh at you, you might as well make them pay.

Contributor

Ray Nedzel

Rayman Nedzel lives inside the Beltway, but thinks outside of the box.

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