How Necessary Is PBS?

After 25 years, the mission seems muddled, the programs redundant

Because public television is blandly virtuous and soaks up smallish sums of tax money, almost no one but right-wing ideologues has ventured full-bore critiques. A 25th-anniversary report, put out last week by a task force of the usual Establishment suspects (Vartan Gregorian, Joe Califano, Tim Wirth and so on), provoked intriguing newspaper headlines (OVERHAUL PROPOSED, teased the Washington Post), but its reformist manifesto -- the 351 local PBS stations should get less federal money, the central programming apparatus should get more -- turned out to be tepid and intramural, a birthday wish list posing as tough-minded scrutiny. <

Understand: MacNeil/Lehrer is...

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