February 17, 2005


PBS, Fighting for Relevance, Loses Its Chief
(Bob Baker, February 17, 2005, LA Times)

When she took over PBS five years ago, Pat Mitchell seemed expertly qualified. She had been a college professor, a local TV producer, reporter and anchor as well as a correspondent on NBC's "Today" show and a CNN producer — the first producer to become the public broadcaster's president.

But three years into the job, Mitchell was saying, "I had no idea how hard it was going to be." The Public Broadcasting Service's ratings, which began to fall as cable TV spread in the '90s, continued to sag, prompting Mitchell to warn public TV programmers in 2002: "We are dangerously close in our overall prime-time numbers to falling below the relevance quotient."

This week, under attack from the right and the left, Mitchell announced she would quit as PBS president when her contract expired in June 2006. She pledged to dedicate the next 15 months to a series of fundraisers to help improve PBS' programming, and to choosing her successor.

They need to stop catering to aging baby-boomers and get back to just broadcasting superior shows. Too much Doo-Wop, Wayne Dyer and Suze Orman--not enough I, Claudius, Mystery, & American Experience.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 17, 2005 7:22 AM

Does the country really need a publically funded broadcasting network. Of course not. It's probably time for a welfare to work program for these guys.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 17, 2005 7:55 AM

BTW, nothing is more absurd or disturbing than the idea that tax dollars, in any amount, are spent to subsidize Bill Moyers' silliness.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 17, 2005 7:58 AM


It would be better to endow them, with public and private money, and for them to just run some ads, rather than to have it be an annual budget item. But we definitely benefit by having a network whose mission is to serve the public rather than the bottom line.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 8:01 AM

Re the post, "..we definitely benefit by having a network whose mission is to serve the public rather than the bottom line."

What a pile of meadow muffins. Who benefited the public -- and for that matter, the environment -- more: profit-seeking Toyota, or the East German, state-owned factory that made the shabby and toxic Trabant?

Posted by: Axel Kassel at February 17, 2005 8:24 AM

And British Comedies. BlackAdder especially.

Science programming, without Alan Alda.

Death to Rock Rhythm and Doo Wop.

Posted by: Chris at February 17, 2005 8:59 AM

PBS dropped below the relevance quotient in the 80s when, having been targeted by Newt, they ran commercials featuring Sesame Street with the tagline (from memory) "If not PBS, who?" Sesame Street is a billion dollar franchise. It isn't going anywhere, regardless of what happens to PBS and that's true of anything else they broadcast that's worth watching.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 17, 2005 9:03 AM

I agree with Chris but it isn't going to happen without the cost of listening to left wing propaganda financed by the Funds that are run by the left wing elite and trust babies like those in Moveon.org.

David is right on. There are existing venues that will pick up the slack for programs of merit. PBS had its day but the world has changed and it's time for PBS to "move on." And if not in the next two years ... when?

Posted by: Genecis at February 17, 2005 10:32 AM


Then why don't they?

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 10:38 AM

Agency costs.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 17, 2005 10:39 AM

PBS serves the public? PBS gave us Barney. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 17, 2005 3:39 PM

Its a vipers nest of communists and plo sympathizers hanging on until Hillary.

Burn down the city. Tear down the walls. Kill the men. Sell the women and children into slavery. Plow the land. Sow it with salt.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 17, 2005 10:13 PM

If they get funded by the state they will serve the interests of the state. The bureacratic state justifies itself through the fiction of disintersted altruism and the fact of constant expansion. The fairy tale of modern liberalism is their catechism. PBS provides a platform for them for which Iwould rzther not be forced to pay. Let the market determine their value to the political dialogue.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 18, 2005 8:09 AM

We are the state.

Posted by: oj at February 18, 2005 9:15 AM


Speak for yourself. For me, on a visceral level, The State remains the enemy.

In a market with cable and satellite, there is no reason for tax money to be used to subsidize what some hack politicians think is of value to the public. Let the viewer pick his own poison.

Posted by: Bart at February 18, 2005 11:16 AM


Yes the state--your fellow citizens--is obviously your enemy. That's true for rather few of us though.

Posted by: oj at February 18, 2005 12:24 PM

i wouldn't say the state is my enemy, but i wouldn't say its my friend either. for the most part i want it controlled and managed, but i also want it fit and ready.

Posted by: cjm at February 18, 2005 11:42 PM


That's silly.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 19, 2005 10:12 AM