Not too many years ago, the Public Broadcasting Service asked this provocative question: “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?” Now, with the explosion of cable and satellite programming, that question has been answered. The History Channel, Biography, C-Span, A&E, National Geographic, the Learning Channel and many other outlets offer the kinds of cultural, news, and educational programming once thought to be the exclusive territory of public broadcasting.
As alternatives have proliferated, government funding of public broadcasting has declined. Today, for example, Oregon Public Broadcasting receives only 14 percent of its funding from government grants.
Apparently, at least one lawmaker in Salem thinks that’s not enough. Representative Terry Beyer of Springfield has sponsored House Bill 3390 which would create a gross receipts tax on the sale of radio and television advertising, and distribute that tax money to public broadcasters.
This method of taxation poses a threat to our nation’s long tradition of a free press. Thomas Jefferson himself wrote that “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”
Penalizing one set of broadcasters because they fund their efforts through advertising is unfair. Rather than tax one set of broadcasters to support another, let’s get government out of broadcasting altogether.
© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.