In the Spring of 1992, Congress debated whether to reauthorize funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the CPB). Congress had created the CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation, in 1967, as the mechanism to disburse federal funds to public broadcasting stations and program producers, and as a buffer or "heat shield" between Congress and the public broadcasters. In 1992, conservatives extended the "culture war" they had earlier declared against public funding for the arts, and launched a full frontal assault upon public broadcasting, seeking to withdraw all federal support for the CPB. Opponents of public broadcasting leveled four charges against the institution:
"Objectivity and Balance" in Public Broadcasting (1) that public television had been rendered obsolete by the explosion of cable channels offering programming traditionally found on PBS; (2) that in an age of budgetary constraint, it was indefensible to expend federal funds on a system that served mostly elitist preferences; (3) that programming on public broadcasting stations was frequently "indecent," and such programming should not be paid for with tax revenues; and (4) that public affairs programming on public broadcasting stations evinced a consistently liberal bias. By far the most sustained criticism of public broadcasting focused on the alleged liberal bias of news and information programming. During the floor debates, several congressmen ridiculed specific programming choices of public television officials and accused public broadcasting of promoting a "left-wing ideology." Typical of this sentiment was the opinion expressed by Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kansas), that public television presented a "steady stream of documentary cheerleading for leftwing interests."
Steven D. Zansberg,
"Objectivity and Balance" in Public Broadcasting: Unwise, Unworkable, and Unconstitutional,
Yale L. & Pol'y Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylpr/vol12/iss1/8