Bill Haenel

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Posted by Bill Haenel on 18-Feb-11

There's nothing like guaranteeing a negative result by testing against the impossible, eh? It's a great way to make sure that whatever you're testing and how you're testing it, you always get the outcome you're looking for. Talk about setting up for certain failure.

Once again this morning, I'm checking up on the landscape surrounding the debate over whether or not to eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting. The video I made earlier this week ("The Man takes away public radio") is taking hold a little wee bit. I hope it takes hold some more. It's been tweeted, and facebooked and there are at least a handful of sites out there that have re-posted it on their sites as well, which is nice to see.

One of the sites that has shared the video in their space enabled comments below the video. The first and only comment so far says, "If tax dollars are being used to support public broadcast radio… then the news and information being broadcast should be totally unbiased... which it is not!!!... Until public radio can be unbiased… maybe the answer is to have a PBR tax donation line item on our tax forms."

Good point. I agree (no). Trouble is, I'm not sure how you would measure this idea of "totally unbiased". Do we get a streaming bias meter? Do we count facts and opinions and register each point with a red or blue check mark? Maybe we should put a very smart dog in front of the radio and see if he barks when he hears certain people talk about certain ideas?

Of course, none of these methods are probably going to work very well. And honestly, the bigger problem is, where is the line? Isn't bias a relative thing, based on current popular opinion? What's biased today may seem unbiased tomorrow, and vice-versa.

Once upon a time, maybe public broadcasting wasn't considered to have such a lean in one direction or another. Frankly, I know people who think NPR is too conservative. Maybe the thing that's changed is other media and opinions. Let's face it, in terms of major media outlets, exactly which one of them is reporting in the true Morrow spirit, with a vigilant eye on the quality of their journalistic integrity? I count... zero.

This is not to say that public broadcasting shouldn't try to be more objective, or should give up on being the unbiased voice of the people. It's just that I don't know if it's possible to get a consensus on exactly what unbiased might sound like, or if it's even possible to do it at all.

And until then, I think it might be better to keep ol' public broadcasting around for a bit, work out some of its issues, and use it for the common good it was intended to benefit in the first place.

But throwing the baby out with the bathwater because it can't meet some unattainable goal - maybe not such a good way to solve any problems. We do in fact need a public information channel in our democracy, and this is the one we've got, whether you think it's biased or not.

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