October 8, 2012
If They Sell PBS . . .
Posted by John Spencer
I know that in theory privatizing PBS wouldn't change their programming choices. They would probably go for "sponsors" and slowly move more "sponsors" into mid-show breaks. It would stay classy. It would stay informational. I would still get America's Test Kitchen and the kids would still get Wild Kratts.
However, it's interesting to think about the history of the TLC network. The Learning Channel started out as educational. It began as a joint venture of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare along with NASA. When it was first privatized, nothing changed. For a decade, it continued to remain focussed on education and learning, though with subtle shifts toward entertainment.
When it was bought out by Discovery, it evolved more rapidly. It became a channel for popular art and interior decorating. It was entertaining with a slight touch of education. However, it certainly lacked the cognitive kick that it once had.
Now it has become the freak show of reality television, exploiting stereotypes of little people, large families and "rednecks." Last time I checked, Honey Boo Boo isn't quite the same as Word World and Junkyard Wars isn't quite the quality educational programming one sees on News Hour.
Don't get me wrong. We can still learn from TLC, though in our case, the biggest lesson we can learn is what might happen to PBS if it becomes privatized.