Back in November PBS ran a documentary analyzing the US's lopsided income distribution, which in recent times has seen a yawning gulf opening between rich and poor.
Now it so happens that the protagonist of this real live drama is David Koch, who lives at 740 Park Avenue, NYC, and sits on the board of trustees of WNET, the PBS station which produced the documentary. Koch-connected people tried to get the program cancelled, but PBS ran it unaltered and as scheduled.
And now David Koch, who has given $23 million to PBS over the last decade, says he is changing his mind about a planned and much anticipated seven figure contribution to the WNET.
The station attempted to placate koch by giving him and one of his congressional pets, Democrat Senator Charlie Schumer, an hour to rebut the film immediately afterward. Apparently that was not enough.
Never fear, however, the incomparable Jane Mayer is on the case. You may recall her as the New Yorker reporter who pulled the covers on the Kochs back in 2010, with a bombshell article exposing the political, environmental, and ideological impact of the Kochs on the nation, and she lays the WNET dispute out in detail this week.
This underscores the need to return the public airwaves to public control. PBS should be 100% government funded; the corporate funding it depends on now has way too much influence over programming, and the quality of PBS has suffered because of it. Mayer points out that only 12% of PBS funding comes from government any more.
But the Koch brothers are determined to influence all mass media much more than they do now. They're negotiating to buy the Chicago Tribune company, which consists of eight metropolitan dailies. If it wasn't for their Pal Rupert Murdoch of FoxNews fame, they'd have to expand into TV as well. And who knows, they might acquire their own television networks yet. Nothing facilitates control of the media like owning it.