PBS goes begging again: Brother, can you spare a dime?


NEW YORK, January 15, 2014 – Why are these people always broke?

Since there was nothing else happening on TV – no local football, that’s for sure – I turned to the local station that carries PBS. Some guy was giving a motivational speech. Maybe it was legit, but it absolutely had the sound of an infomercial. Nothing wrong with that if it is some backwoods cable operation.

But this was public broadcasting, at a cost to you, ladies and gentlemen, of more than $400 million a year.

In the middle of this infomercial came an actual commercial asking me to contribute part of my salary so that Bill Moyers can go on making a living.

Sesame Street also needs my help. Without me, millions of kids will go to bed hungry and without an education every night.

The huckster who did the talking refused to stop. He begged. He never used the word “money.” No, it was about making a “pledge.”

Or contributing an “endowment.”

How is that each time I visit PBS, those people are always in the middle of a pledge drive? Used to be twice a year, I think. Now it is every month.

Every week?

So in addition to the plus $400 million that PBS is funded through Congress as part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which includes NPR — which is probably also in the middle of a pledge drive – so in addition to all that, PBS gets “funding” from member stations (354 of them), corporations, and private citizens, people like you and me who have nothing better to do with our money.

If, that is, you will excuse the expression, since it is always about pledges and endowments and never about money.

Still, it does sound like, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

Big money from big government, and PBS till can’t get along.

Can’t say this for sure, and will probably have to check with City Hall, but in my neighborhood panhandling is illegal. You can go to jail.

How is this different?

Because they don’t come knocking on your door? So instead they intrude our living rooms. No difference.

Worse, the supplicant at your door or with the tin can outside your 7-11 does not have that $400 million in government funding. No endowment.

All over the place, in building after building, the signs say, “No soliciting on these premises.” How about my premises?

PBS thinks of itself as contributing high culture, but you can get that from reading a book once in a while, or watching the gilded housewife bimbos on Bravo.

(I am kidding for gosh sakes.) The news on its NewsHour? Admittedly, haven’t watched it in years, ever since Megyn Kelly and the rest of them joined up on Fox News, but I remember it as the kind of news that seldom gave America or Israel an even break. (Ditto NPR, by the way, which has been seriously infiltrated.)

If it is legal, is there no shame? Sometimes I feel sorry for those PBS (and NPR) pitchmen who have to keep pleading for their sustenance. Their salaries are at risk if we don’t come through. But could you do this, stand in front of millions and beg for your chow? Sounds humiliating to me.

Granted, when times are tough most of us will do anything for a buck. But these people wear suits and ties and some, I’ll bet, show up in limousines.

So what happens to all those millions from the government, from the corporations and from you and me?

Much of the programming comes packaged from other sources, like the BBC. So where does the money go and why are they always destitute? Beats me.

Maybe the boys upstairs pull in more than their share.

Or if PBS is a legitimate charity foundation, like the Salvation Army, which apparently it is, say so and we will be on hand when the next typhoon comes along.

Meantime, get a job.

New from Jack Engelhard, the revived classic edition of his international bestseller Indecent Proposal


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Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard enjoys international fame as a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, which was turned into film starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His memoir Escape From Mount Moriah has been acclaimed for excellence and a movie version was an official selection at CANNES. Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist is Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer. Engelhard’s journalism covers all topics, with special focus on the absurdity of human behavior, and reaches around the globe. He can be contacted at www.jackengelhard.com