The Corner

From Public Broadcasting to Propagandizing

A friend sent me a January 12 e-mail that provides another reason why, as the Heritage Foundation has said before, Congress should consider ending all funding of PBS.

The e-mail is a press advisory from Brett Abrams at about a January 21–22 event — “The Rise Above Conference” — organized by Lawyers for Good Government.

According to the advisory, Lawyers for Good Government is a new organization of “120,000 lawyers, paralegals, law students and activists” who will hold a conference to “harness, empower and coordinate the unprecedented political energy that has emerged since Donald Trump won the Presidency.”  The conference is intended to “convert that momentum” into “legal resistance to the incoming Trump Administration and Republican controlled Congress.”

The founder of Lawyers for Good Government, Traci Feit Love, says her organization is “determined to challenge and resist the Trump Administration’s anticipated abuses of power and attacks on human rights.” Love is the vice president of a legal marketing agency, 180Legal. Her reaction to Trump’s win was despair, anger, fear, and disbelief according to Above the Law, a legal website.  

It is obvious from this description and the organizers themselves that this conference is a partisan gathering intended to organize political resistance to Donald Trump and Republican legislators. That is also obvious from the one-sidedness of the speakers. For example, a session on “The Reality of 2018 and the Hope for 2020” has only one speaker listed: “Mark Schauer of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.” There is no equivalent Republican speaker on redistricting issues.

So where does PBS come in? A session on “Communications Strategy in the Era of Fake News” features a PBS vice president, Toby Chaudhuri.

He will be advising an entirely progressive, liberal audience on how to organize their communications strategy to benefit their side of the political aisle. This is especially ironic given the PBS statement on “Editorial Standards and Policies,” which says that the quality of its content depends on the “intention to inform, not to propagandize” and that along with fairness and accuracy, “objectivity is a third basic standard” to which its journalists are held. 

Having a PBS vice president help liberal activists craft their communications strategy to provide “resistance to the incoming Trump Administration” and Republicans in Congress raises serious questions about the objectivity, partisanship, accuracy, and fairness of PBS. When funding for PBS is being considered in the next budget, members of Congress need to consider whether the American public, particularly those who voted for Donald Trump, should be forced through their taxes to subsidize PBS or the salaries of individuals like Toby Chaudhuri so that they can engage in partisan assistance to one particular political party and progressive activists.

UPDATE: PBS sent the following comment after this post was published.

Mr. Chaudhuri was notified last year that his employment would end this month. He is due to leave the organization prior to this event.

His participation in this event was not approved by PBS. His role as described would be a violation of our commitment to nonpartisanship.

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