Former CBS News President Fred Friendly on Wednesday had few good words to say about commercial television stations and supported a proposal to impose a fee on these "money machines" to help foot the bill for public broadcasting.
Friendly, testifying for more than an hour before a Senate Commerce subcommittee, said Congress has a duty to establish a stable source of money for the public TV and radio system it created 20 years ago.
He said commercial television "has become, tragically, a money machine.
Sees Viewers Hurt
"Commercial TV makes so much doing its worst that it can't afford to do its best," said the journalist who headed CBS News from 1964-66.
Friendly said the deregulatory climate of the Reagan Administration that has resulted in fewer restrictions on the operations of broadcast stations is hurting the viewing public.
"You can't go on letting the public airwaves be raped by people who don't give a damn about content but only care what they can sell the station for in two or three years," he said.
Friendly, a professor emeritus at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, reminded members of the communications subcommittee that Congress created public broadcasting but chastised them for failing to fulfill the promise of providing sufficient funds to operate the system adequately.
"You've created an illegitimate child," he said. "You have disinherited him and made him into a begging pauper."
Friendly endorsed a proposal by Sen. Ernest Hollings, (D-S.C.), to impose a fee of 2% to 4% of the fair market value of a broadcast station upon its sale. The higher fee would be imposed on stations sold within three years of acquiring the license.