Whatever happened to the public part of public broadcasting? I'm not talking today about those "enhanced underwriting announcements," which really are nothing but full-fledged commercials for the corporations doing the "underwriting" of our supposedly noncommercial, public radio and TV networks. Instead, I'm talking about "public" stations that have stooped so low that they've gone to court to avoid their public responsibility to present the full, hot flare of American political debate, rather than presenting only the flickering flame of the same old, sad two-party system.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court -- which has become a total toady to the Powers That Be -- ruled that third-party candidates have no First Amendment right to participate in congressional or presidential campaign debates sponsored by the public's broadcasting outlet. Imagine that! The public airwaves are owned by We the People, PBS itself was created and is funded by We the People, yet the "outsider" candidates of We the People can be nixed by anonymous officials of PBS. Now get this: Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Supreme Court's anti-democratic opinion, said that to include all candidates in the public debate would "result in less speech, not more." His rationale was that to include Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and the rest would cause the public stations not to air the debates at all.
Hey, Anthony: We want the chance to hear them all, and since the airwaves and PBS belong to us, make them air the debates and bring on all comers! Indeed, this particular case was brought by an Arkansas public TV station that staged a big, whopping one-hour debate among congressional candidates in 1992 and claimed there wasn't room for the "outsider candidates." Hey, PBS, how about devoting two hours once every two years to our democratic dialogue? Is that too much to ask?