Even the best of us make mistakes — and public television just made a big one.
Because they were afraid of upsetting Tea Party billionaire and PBS donor David Koch, public television pulled funding for a documentary by Academy Award-nominated filmmakers on the corrosive role of money in politics. That means millions of PBS viewers won’t have the chance to see the film Citizen Koch. David Koch’s enormous wealth — and $23 million in donations to public television as a board member of local PBS stations — shouldn’t give him the power to suppress programming that serves the public good.
We’re huge fans of public television, and I bet you are too. That’s why we want to see it live up to its founding principles of serving the public interest — not the private interests of wealthy donors like the Kochs. Citizen Koch’s exploration of money in politics is exactly the type of debate that public television was started to help foster. But instead, big money has prevented the discussion from even starting.
What makes it even scarier is that right now the Koch brothers are attempting to buy the second-largest newspaper chain in America. Imagine how much more news they could censor and distort if the Kochs owned papers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.
We hope that someday public broadcasting receives enough public funding so it won’t be in the position of needing to take money from unsavory and ideological donors like the Koch brothers. Until then, we need to make sure these donations aren’t having an outsize influence.