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Friday, April 24, 2009

Should State Taxpayers Fund Television

Governor Rendell has proposed cutting funding for the Pennsylvania Public Television Network (about $12 million) from the state budget for next year. This has obviously led those who receive taxpayer funding to list the reasons why they need taxpayer funding.

Sen Eichelberger was not persuaded that public television is a core function of state government and neither is Lowman Henry.

We are working on testimony for another hearing on public television funding - here is a quick preview:

Supporters of public television are currently engaged in a public relations effort to preserve taxpayer funding of these stations, citing such programs as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street to justify their cause. But quality programs like these would thrive without government support; DVDs of 30-year old episodes of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street are sold on Amazon.com.

Indeed, one public television station is asking its viewers to contact legislators and express support for continued state funding—essentially using taxpayer funding to solicit more taxpayer funding. If these stations really do provide a service of value to viewers, they should appeal to their viewers, listeners, private foundations, and other supporters to make up for the loss in taxpayer subsidies. To paraphrase the late Milton Friedman, private philanthropy supports so many charities and civic entities, why would we think it could not support public television stations, if so many people feel this way?

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