On the Urge to Purge Public TV

Public television has a hard enough time as it is. But now some Republicans are determined to render it as brain dead as they are.

These latest attacks against the programs on PBS have come mainly during a Senate debate on a $1.1-billion funding bill for 1993 to 1995.

From Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), we hear that PBS is a gusher of “unrelenting liberal cheerleading.” That’s a lingering charge from conservatives, and one that surely bemuses such Commie-loving PBS left-wingers as William F. Buckley Jr. and John McLaughlin, and the producers of “Tony Brown’s Journal,” “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” “Washington Week in Review” and “Black American Conservatism: An Exploration of Ideas.”

From Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), we hear that “P.O.V."--a PBS series for independent filmmakers that has become a favorite whipping boy for Bronze Age lawmakers and other critics--is unfit for telecast because of its admitted leftist bias in the political films it airs.

McCain noted the undeniable slant of the “P.O.V.” film “Maria’s Story,” an intimate documentary about an anti-government Salvadoran rebel, and Helms incorrectly characterized the Marlon Riggs film, “Tongues Untied,” as supporting homosexuality. Actually, it was nothing more than Riggs’ eloquent personal statement on being a black man who is gay.


An excerpt from “Tongues Untied"--taken totally out of context--has also surfaced in a repugnant, gay-bashing Patrick J. Buchanan TV ad seeking to link President Bush to controversies that have swirled about the National Endowment for the Arts, which helped fund the Riggs film. The excerpt leaves the impression that “Tongues Untied” is a male orgy. It isn’t.

It’s not only Republicans who have sought to bend public TV to their will. For example, Jimmy Carter was no friend of PBS either. In now seeking personal gain by cynically exploiting ignorance and hatred, however, GOP presidential aspirant Buchanan is playing dangerous politics. No doubt his own narrow views on television would coincide with the agenda of those senators who claim that they want fairness but who in truth seek to perform a lobotomy on a public medium that, despite great flaws and failures, remains one of America’s best hopes for diverse programming.

It’s their debate that should be titled “Tongues Untied.”

Dole and some of his GOP colleagues are reportedly ready with a regressive proposal for annual reviews of the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the body through which money is funneled to public broadcasting. It’s presently done every three years.

Actually, the term of review should be altered, but expanded to at least five years, not decreased, thereby giving public TV greater independence from myopic lawmakers who want to repress its growth.

But let’s be upright about this. What about that “unrelenting liberal cheerleading” mentioned by Dole? A close examination of this month’s KCET program schedule is required.

Let’s see now . . . Aha!

On “Great Performances,” a two-hour production titled “The World of Jewish Humor” includes the Marx Brothers. Hmmm. Could one of them be . . . KARL?

On “Movie City Showcase,” the 1960 movie, “Make Mine Mink,” is a comedy about thieves who “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” COMMUNISTS DO THAT!

Also coming up is a concert by Crosby, Stills and Nash, who wrote and sang songs OPPOSING THE VIETNAM WAR!

An episode of “Nova” examines the “new secrets revealed during the spectacular 1991 solar eclipse.” Get it? PBS is telling secrets. SPIES TELL SECRETS!

Another “Movie City Showcase” features Woody Allen’s “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.” Allen is in the film, and so is Mia Farrow, the mother of his child. THEY’RE NOT MARRIED!

Peter, Paul and Mary are noting their 25th anniversary with a concert in which they will sing, “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Don’t you see? Magic? PBS is promoting THE DARK WORLD OF THE SUPERNATURAL!

On Saturday, Julia Child makes lobster souffle. Are the censors asleep or something? Lobsters are. . . .


It’s all so clear now. The “liberal bias” is there, and there is only one way to erase it. The tongues must be retied.

Channel 2 Revisited: Here’s more on the sorry state of news at KCBS Channel 2 under its new news director, John Lippman. According to numerous newsroom sources, Lippman hatched a plan for self-promotion upon hearing Channel 2 reporter Kim Marriner say on the air that an 11-year-old South Central Los Angeles girl wanted a bracelet for her birthday.

The girl was recovering in a hospital after being struck in the heart by a bullet from a gang battle while carrying her 2-year-old brother to safety.

The sources say that Lippman ordered a bracelet to be purchased and inscribed, “From Your Friends at Channel 2.” The plan, they say, was for Channel 2 to show one of its reporters giving the girl the bracelet in her room. The purpose, says former KCBS news producer Ernie Arboles, who was there at the time, “was to make Channel 2 look like a human, compassionate, caring group of people.”

Some staffers were outraged by this plan to self-servingly exploit a tragedy. “Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth,” one said, “because we knew it was unethical.”

The bracelet was never delivered, sources said, because the girl’s father beat Channel 2 to the punch by buying a bracelet for her with donations.

Asked about these reports, Lippman denied ever making a decision to have Channel 2 buy the girl a bracelet.