With friends like MoveOn.org, public broadcasters don’t need enemies. But they’ve got plenty, especially now that the Republicans who control the House of Representatives are proposing to cut off all government funding for public broadcasting.
When House Republicans put the money for public broadcasting on their list of budget cuts two weeks ago, there was barely a peep from either the right or the left. But that changed when MoveOn, a liberal organization that’s a favorite bogeyman for and target of conservatives, jumped into the fray.
MoveOn turned the entry page for its Web site into a petition opposing the proposed cuts and e-mailed its members imploring them to sign the petition.
Public broadcasting executives appreciate the support—to a point. But several who spoke with Adweek wish MoveOn would have stayed quiet. They’re concerned that the group’s support will help opponents paint public broadcasting as a tool of the left wing, rather than a thoughtful, educational and often high-brow approach to news and culture.
“We’re embarrassed,” one exec said.
As if on cue, Brent Bozell, the founder and president of the Media Research Center, a conservative press watchdog, seemed to confirm public broadcasters’ worst fears. Bozell entered the debate by tweeting: “Earth to media reporters: If PBS and NPR subsidies are being promoted by MoveOn.org, doesn’t that hint at WHOSE media these are?”
Paula Kreger, president and CEO of PBS, disagrees with that sentiment.
"When you look at the breadth of people talking about us right now, they aren't all left- or right-wing crazy people,” Kreger told Adweek. “MoveOn is out there, but so are others. It's a stretch to point to them and say, 'See, they're all one.’ It's a polarizing time, and there are some people who look for these opportunities."