Writer: ‘PBS had all the intelligence of VH1 and all the youth appeal of CBS’

By Alex Weprin 

Slate’s Mike Oppenheimer argues that instead of defunding NPR, budget hawks should turn their attention to PBS.

In a nutshell, his argument is that unlike NPR, which has a clear brand (quirky and cerebral, as he puts it) PBS is a mishmash of programing. Children’s shows like “Sesame Street” share space with Anglophile programming like “Masterpiece Theater,” news programs like “Frontline” and science shows like “Nova.”

Today, it can be difficult to find what ambitious, interesting programming there is on PBS. Earlier this month, I tuned in a few times and was greeted by Antiques Roadshow, a doo-wop concert that I have seen before while channel-surfing, and—several times—the financial advice of Suze Orman. From those glimpses, it seemed that an average evening on PBS had all the intelligence of VH1 and all the youth appeal of CBS.

Of course, he adds in the next paragraph that his sampling of shows did not include many of PBS’ signature news programs:

That may have been an unfair sampling. Last week, for example, I found a NOVA episode about the disaster in Japan; a show about the abuse of queer youth in the juvenile justice system; and a Frontline special about the influence of big money in the NCAA. But even in its best weeks, PBS lacks any sort of coherent sensibility.