The Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives over 350 million dollars annually, money lifted from taxpayers, to fund the programs primarily of the Public Broadcasting Service. Unlike the BBC in England which taxes individual television set owners to fund itself, the "PBS tax" is applied invisibly as part of the Federal budget. Even those who not watch PBS or TV are nevertheless paying the price for it.
Aside from its children's programming, PBS stations were known for producing very little of interest airing primarily obscure documentaries, airings of classic music and ballet and imported British dramas and comedies. Its news features were primarily bland as emphasized by the McNeil Lehrer news hour, an hour long newscast so grey and devoid of character it was nearly impossible to actually pay attention to. PBS of course suffered from an inevitable liberal bias and a liberal agenda but in its news features it was a classic bias that ran between the lines of print rather than being shouted through a megaphone.
Then came the megaphone. A good deal of the change could be ascribed to the overall changes that struck mainstream American liberals with the second Bush Administration. Politics had often been angry and the battle over Clinton's impeachment had struck sparks but had never touched off an explosion. Even in the darkest days of the emergence of the Republican Congress, American liberals had been able to smugly occupy the high ground of the Presidency. With the election of George W. Bush not only did Democrats lose the Presidency without the compensation of a Democratic held Congress but they found themselves coping with a President who unlike his father lacked the RealPolitik trademark of a savvy politician who understood the rules of the game. And there is nothing that quite infuriates liberals like a conservative who is a genuine idealist.
From the disputed Florida votes, the bastions of the American liberal press began exploding in an outpouring of frustrated fury unseen since the Reagan Administration. At PBS with little in the way of sponsors to satisfy and no worries about ratings or anyone to displease, Bill Moyers emerged as PBS's main Bush-Shouter. Like Keith Olbermann on MSNBC or Dan Rather on CBS, the Bush-Shouter was traditionally a middle aged white male who had been a longtime member of the press for whom George W. Bush's victory resulted in a sort of mental collapse leading to an increasingly deranged obsession with the President.
Dan Rather's Bush obsession eventually resulted in his firing when an attempt to smear Bush during the 2004 election using transparently forged documents backfired on him. Bill Moyers however could not be fired. An attempt by the former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcast to investigate Bill Moyer's bias instead led to his own forced resignation. Anchored by the bureaucratic culture of PBS, Bill Moyers continues delivering angry biased tirades at taxpayer expense.
A former Minister, Bill Moyers worked as a press secretary, chief of staff and special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. After the Johnson administration Bill Moyers went on to what can only be euphemistically described as a career in journalism. In reality Bill Moyers primarily worked as a host and commentator for PBS which paid a former Democratic White House staffer to air his opinions on television at taxpayer expense. Those opinions were unsurprisingly liberal ones.
As time went on Bill Moyers became increasingly histrionic and increasingly impossible to restrain. While covering the 2004 Presidential election, Bill Moyers suggested that if Kerry won, Pro-Bush forces would launch a coup. By 2007 it was Bill Moyers himself who was proposing the coup holding a July broadcast proposing the impeachment of the President. Bill Moyers closed the broadcast with the following words,
"All week a line from the poet Marvin Bell floated through my mind:One can but speculate on what other "ways to go" Bill Moyers had in mind but his clear agenda was to call for the removal of the President and argued that the reason PBS was create was to propagandize a point of view against the war.
"What/shall we do, we who are at war but are asked/to pretend we are not?"
What shall we do? impeachment hearings are one way to go, as you heard Fein and Nichols say. In the meantime, those of us in public television have an obligation to make sure viewers like you stay in the loop. I wish we had carried the congressional debate this week in full -- all of it -- in prime time. When we broadcast teach-ins on the Vietnam war, and the Watergate hearings during the trial of Richard Nixon, it was a real public service -- the reason PBS was created. We should keep Iraq in prime time every week -- the fighting and dying, the suffering, the debate, the politics -- the extraordinary costs. It's months until September. This war is killing us now, body and soul.
That's it for the journal. I'm Bill Moyers."
By 2005 as a response to accusations of bias and broadcasts lacking in journalistic ethics and evidence, PBS had hired former Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler as its Ombudsman. Getler was to have autonomy and independence in examining PBS's broadcasts. Getler was from a Conservative and had been the foreign editor and assistant managing editor for foreign news at the Washington Post.
After Bill Moyers' 2007 impeachment broadcast, Michael Getler criticized the broadcast for a lack of balance. Bill Moyers replied rejecting the idea of balance or fairness and embracing advocacy with himself as the sole determinant of what ideas are advocated.
"I respect your work and your role, but I disagree with you about "balance." The journalist's job is not to achieve some mythical state of equilibrium between two opposing opinions out of some misshapen respect —sometimes, alas, reverence—for the prevailing consensus among the powers-that-be. The journalist's job is to seek out and offer the public the best thinking on an issue, event, or story. That's what I did regarding the argument for impeachment. Official Washington may not want to hear the best arguments for impeachment—or any at all—but a lot of America does."
As Bill Moyers sees his job, it isn't to offer points of view, it is to offer one point of view, his own, that shapes the dialogue. And if Bill Moyers wants to see the President impeached, then it's arguments for impeachment that will be presented and represented... because the best thinking on the issue is embodied by Bill Moyers himself.
By the end of August 2007, Michael Getler wrote comparing Bill Moyers to Richard Nixon and describing his tirades as "the gift that keeps on giving".
There does perhaps but more accurately Bill Moyers doesn't need to be broadcasting his agendas on the public dime. There is a place for columnists and pundits from all sides but there is no reason for government funding to be used to endorse one side or another. By continuing to air Bill Moyers' tirades, PBS is serving as a vehicle for increasingly virulent political propaganda by a former White House Press Secretary to a Democratic President who has demonstrated a great ability to hijack a public broadcasting service for his own agenda.
Over the last many years, reporters have grown fond of the once-secret tape recordings of White House conversations made by former President Richard Nixon. They are sometimes jokingly referred to as "the gift that keeps on giving," not just because each new batch that gets released is likely to reveal something new, but because they almost always produce stories and give journalists and commentators something to write about.I'm beginning to think the same way about Bill Moyers and his weekly Journal on PBS. A few months ago, soon after Moyers returned as a regular to PBS, I said, half-jokingly, that there may need to be an ombudsman just for Moyers.