Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Feeding Big Bird

This will come as a surprise many of you, but I don't disagree with Mitt Romney on the matter of government subsidies for public TV and radio.

It's not a new opinion; I've offered it a handful of times on public radio, particularly when Gov. Pataki was implicitly threatening WAMC, on which I appear and am a member of the board.

Government subsidies are worthwhile if the government is flush, which it currently is decidedly not. But true public broadcasting is best supported by viewers and listeners (as well as underwriters - or sponsors, as they call them on the commercial channels/stations).

Look at the aforementioned WAMC, which this week is completing another successful $1 million fund drive, one of three it conducts each year. That's $3 million in listener contributions, plus the underwriting money. Make no mistake, whatever money WAMC does receive from government is important and welcome. Without it, its fund-raising mission would be even more intense and difficult. But it would succeed if the thousands who listen and contribute were joined by the thousands more who listen and don't put a dime into the pot.

Moreover, no government money would eliminate the worry that some stations (fortunately, not WAMC) have about restricting political content for fear of alienating those who control the government treasury.

Now let me tell you what did surprise me about Mitt Romney's declaration about public broadcasting and Big Bird at last week's presidential debate.

Romney was asked to be specific about what he'd cut in the federal budget. Despite a menu of possibilities, most more financially meaningful than PBS, from which to choose, Romney made public TV and radio his first choice.


Understand the reported $280 million the government provides PBS isn't small potatoes. And, as noted, I can see it on a government hit list. But not at the top, given the significant government waste in a variety of other places.

Want to go after Bert and Ernie (and all the many other fine public TV and radio offerings)? Go ahead. They mostly will get along without the government dough.

But public broadcasting isn't Public Enemy No. 1.

(By the way, a compelling case for public broadcasting was written by Charles Blow in The New York Times.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Notes, quotes, anecdotes

-- Football headline I thought I'd never read: "Stony Brook beats Army".

-- Played golf at Grossinger's in Sullivan County. Course is in excellent condition. Much too tough for a hacker like me. Biggest shock, however, was seeing the remains of the once-famed hotel-resort's other facilities. Looks like they were hit by bombs.

-- Speaking of golf, it's hard not to get caught up in the Ryder Cup. Match play is nearly always compelling. But I remain a critic when it comes to the over-enthusiastic jingoism attached to what noted commentator John Feinstein calls the game's "most emotional" event. I'm also not down with raucous fans turning golf into wrestling by cheering when someone misses a putt or otherwise makes a poor shot.

-- Keep an ear on WAMC Northeast Public Radio during the on-going fund drive for news of a "Media Project Reunion", which will for a second time bring together current and past "projectiles" (as we call ourselves) for an hour-long program in front of a live crowd at The Linda in Albany.

-- Speaking of WAMC, is there a better celebrity interviewer than Joe Donahue?

-- Hope tradition and decorum prevail at the presidential debates and the audience is warned about hooting, hollering or otherwise interfering once the questioning has started.

-- Can't deny the extra wild card extends interest in the baseball season to fans in more cities. In that regard, it's a success. But, just like in the other major sports, Major League Baseball has largely diminished the importance of being the best team over the course of a long regular season. The World Series will be won by the hot team, not necessarily the best team.

-- Don't mean to be a name-dropper, but I've had the opportunity to see Seth MacFarlane work up close a couple of times. He may be an unconventional pick to host the Oscars, but I'm here to tell you he is an uber-talented entertainer.

-- I've been there (long ago, I dare say), so take my word for it: When commentators write or broadcast either, "It will be interesting to see ..." or "Stay tuned," it usually means they weren't able (or were too lazy) to come up with a clever, point-specific ending.