Wither TLC

Apparently, there’s a big fuss over an LGF page describing the decline of The Learning Channel, which was once a publicly funded network, to its current state and claiming that this is the fate that awaits a privatized PBS. Links from reddit have slammed LGF’s servers, but you don’t have to bother. Just bring up TLC’s wikipedia page and you basically have the entire article. I’m serious.

We can debate PBS funding if we want and I’ll get into that in a second. But I will point out a few problems with the editorial comments they leaven into their Wikipedia scraping. First, TLC was privatized in November 1980. Do you remember who was President in 1980, kids? It was not Ronald Reagan (Someone pointed this out in the comments; the post has since been edited to change the comment from “Reaganism” to “modern version is the Reaganism the gOP pushes [sic]” It’s still wrong).

Second, TLC survived as an educational channel for more than a decade. It was declining ratings that got them to their current awful state. They are not alone in that, however. The History Channel, Sci-Fi, Discovery, A&E, you name it — all have been going down the drain for the last decade. Frankly, Television, as a whole, has been going down the toilet. I have had family in town, off and on, for the last six months and, as a result, have watched non-sports broadcast television for the first time in about five years. It’s worse than ever. It seems that every show that isn’t a reality show is designed to get people to panic over things like human trafficking, Walmart, crime and especially politics. It’s not that these things aren’t concerns; it’s that the public is being subjected to a constant unceasing barrage of scandal-mongering, negativity and panic-stoking. No wonder our country is so screwed up. If it weren’t for visiting family and college football, I would have cut the cord long ago.

So TLC’s decline is just part of a larger general decline in television. It really doesn’t have much to do with privatization. If it hadn’t been privatized, it would probably just not exist. If I want Sal 11000 Beta to see something educational — and PBS isn’t on — I’ll stream something off Netflix or pop in a Planet Earth blu-ray.

So … now we can talk PBS.

There are a lot of misconceptions about our funding for PBS. Romney and his opponents are talking about cutting off funding to Big Bird. However, PBS does not produce Sesame Street; the Sesame Workshop does. If the Sesame Workshop wanted to, they could probably create their own network. No, PBS funding mostly goes to sustain the operations of rural PBS stations that could not survive without the subsidy, such as the one in my town.

I like PBS. I’ve supported them — with money and volunteering — at various points over the last 25 years. But I think it’s likely their operations could be reorganized to support rural PBS affiliates with less than a half billion dollars in subsidies. PBS boasts — constantly — about how educated and wealthy their audience is; wealthier and better educated than any other channel’s audience. That’s what they say. So why should we, give me another name for it, subsidize the rich?

The gripping hand, however, is that the political capital needed to cut off PBS would be enormous and would only benefit the budget by … half a billion dollars. We could win the PBS battle but lose the budget war, lacking any remaining political capital to go after the important things like entitlements and defense spending. In fact, I’ve long ignored any politician who starts his budget cuts with PBS. To me, it usually indicates someone who is fundamentally unserious about budget cutting. They’re picking a popular target that plays to conservative dislike of PBS/NPR. But they’re not really going after the big fish.

So to circle back to the impetus of this post: what does the decline of TLC tell us about the future of PBS? Nothing.

Comments are closed.

  1. Santino

    I’m with you Hal, if it wasn’t for sports* I wouldn’t need cable. I did just discover Crackle, and have been enjoying the un-politcally correct whismy of Soap, Diff’rent Strokes, and The Jeffersons. Now I just need to find a way to find episodes of Cheers.

    As an aside TBS has to get rid of the 3 man booth. Silence is golden in baseball. I hate that they feel compelled to speak at every moment possible. Is Smoltz also trying to enter the Inanities Hall of Fame? Seriously, his commentary is atrocious!

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  2. briggie

    I think tv’s biggest problem is trying to compete with netflix, amazon prime ect. While visiting my parents, I surfed through Discovery, Science, and Nat Geo, all of them had some form of reality show on. It seems like many channels are starting to get desperate lately. Luckily, Smithsonian hasn’t been desecrated … yet.

    If it weren’t for visiting family and college football, I would have cut the cord long ago.

    I took apart my crt to salvage the flyback transformer. Lots of fun with that until I melted the windings (It was designed for discontinuous mode I think). I was able to salvage the iron core though. My other tv (a 27 inch 720p) is now being re-purposed as a computer monitor. Just some suggestions in case you do cut the cord.

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  3. CM

    I disagree strongly about the state of tv. Network tv may suck but the cable stations are producing plenty of high quality shows. Breaking Bad, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Southland, Justified…..just to name a few dramas.

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  4. briggie

    The channels I mentioned weren’t network channels. Also shows from HBO and Showtime shouldn’t count because those require subscriptions. Yes, there are good shows still out there, but the vast majority of shows (and channels) are horrible. Only a few years ago, I used to actually find shows that were educational on Discovery, Science (still has cool stuff sometimes), TLC and Nat Geo. Now it is rednecks doing , logging, pawn shops, and something about storage units.

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  5. Hal_10000 *

    CM, I agree a bit. HBO and Showtime are producing quality TV. But there is LOT of shit out there.

    I think the most absurd point is how much my FB feed lit up with liberals saying that Romney had REALLY stepped in it, threatening to cut off PBS. Like anyone votes based on PBS.

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  6. briggie

    The LGF article seems to play a little fast and loose with language. Author seems to think privatization means just for-profit. Also does not even acknowledge that PBS itself is a private company (non-profit). The author’s only source is wikipedia. I mean honestly, could you be anymore intellectually lazy?

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  7. CM

    CM, I agree a bit. HBO and Showtime are producing quality TV. But there is LOT of shit out there.

    There’s more than enough good stuff to fill in my available viewing hours, so I can happily ignore the rest.

    I think the most absurd point is how much my FB feed lit up with liberals saying that Romney had REALLY stepped in it, threatening to cut off PBS. Like anyone votes based on PBS.

    Time to de-liberalise your FB feed?!

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  8. Seattle Outcast

    I get about 900 channels, and watch less than a dozen of them. 90% of what I watch seems to be HBO or one of the cable-only channels. I’m betting it’s going to be cold day in hell before “Game of Thrones” or “Sons of Anarchy” quality shows come to NBC, ABC, CBS, or FOX…

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  9. CM

    I do like the following network shows though
    NBC – 30 Rock, Community
    ABC – Modern Family
    CBS – The Good Wife
    FOX – Raising Hope, Family Guy, Simpsons

    I forgot Sons of Anarchy (and Kurt Sutter’s awesome predecessor The Shield).
    And also I love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX, so a rare non-network comedy there).
    Showtime also had/has Weeds (which was awesome), Dead Like Me, Californication, Homeland, Nurse Jackie…..all quality.

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  10. West Virginia Rebel

    I think ultimately everything will be going to the Internet anyway, including the traditional nets. Even now you can watch their shows (if you want to) on their sites, and there are places like Hulu to boot.

    Meanwhile, some more on the Sesame Street Empire here. Big Bird’s not exactly hurting for cash.

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  11. CM

    ;-p
    Well I live in the burbs with the wife and kids, I have a picket fence (although painted off white) and 2 weeks ago I bought a 7-seater Mazda Premacy……
    But I hardly think Californication (misogyny at it’s finest) is chick tv. Neither is Boardwalk Empire really. Or Family Guy. Or Dexter. Or It’s Sunny. Or Sons. And I was a huge fan of both The Wire and The Sopranos. Loved 24. And in my youth….Dukes, A-Team, BJ and the Bear, Knight Rider, Magnum. Ok, yeah, also Scarecrow and Mrs King….so sue me.
    But I assume you’re trying to get this one right after failing miserably with your attempt to say the same thing about movies (Once Were Warriors…mmmm!)….lol.

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  12. Seattle Outcast

    The Good Wife? Really? C’mon, you can do better than that. Unless she’s going to take her tits out, there’s no reason to watch that show.

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  13. CM

    The Good Wife? Really? C’mon, you can do better than that. Unless she’s going to take her tits out, there’s no reason to watch that show.

    I think she’s as sexy as hell, but at her age I’m not sure seeing those would be a great idea. I stand corrected, but I don’t think she’s ever taken them out on camera. Kimpost, you’re the expert on these matters….
    The Good Wife has some good stuff in it (interesting cases and plot developments), although I’ve only seen the first 2 season’s so can’t vouch for anything after that. It’s well written.

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  14. CM

    CM, Dead Like Me was brilliant. I was pissed when they canceled it.

    Same. It certainly produced a lot of protest when cancelled.
    It was my introduction to the geniusness of Mandy Patinkin.

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  15. richtaylor365

    As with all things, it is a matter of taste and tolerance. I got Showtime for Dexter but this year it really sucks. I stopped watching Homeland (Morena’s breast will just have to go on without me), I got little patience for terrorists, once Nazir gets a bullet in the brain and Brody gets locked up for life, then maybe I might come back. I got bored with Game of Thrones. The only show I ever watch on network TV is Hawaii 5 0. I would like to get into another series but I need more then random F bombs and nips, any suggestions?

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  16. Hal_10000 *

    I feel a Friday Five coming on: what on TV is not complete shit?

    Hilarious development today. OBama put out a lame ad using Big Bird. And the Sesame Workshop quickly sent a cease-and-desist saying they don’t want their show politicized.

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  17. Mississippi Yankee

    It was my introduction to the geniusness of Mandy Patinkin.

    CM, if you were to rent or netflix or hulu “Alien Nation” the movie not the TV series you’d get to see his genious even as a younger man.

    The only show I ever watch on network TV is Hawaii 5 0. I would like to get into another series but I need more then random F bombs and nips, any suggestions?

    rich, if it wouldn’t be past career overload I suggest “Blue Bloods”

    The series follows the Irish-American Reagan family of police officers with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Francis “Frank” Reagan (Tom Selleck) is the Police Commissioner. He was a U.S. Marine and a Vietnam veteran before he joined the NYPD. He is a widower whose son Joe died in the line of duty, leaving him three remaining adult children—Danny(Donnie Wahlberg), Erin(Bridget Moynahan), and Jamie(some other mook).

    I’m not a big fan of cop shows (since Hill Street Blues) but this one pulls me in every week.
    Hmm maybe I’m just fixated on the color Blue.

    As to “Dead Lke Me’ I own it on DVD but I own Xena and Farscape too. Most of my taste is in my mouth.

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  18. Miguelito

    As to “Dead Lke Me’ I own it on DVD but I own Xena and Farscape too. Most of my taste is in my mouth

    Aw c’mon, I loved Farscape. Took a bit to get into but it was pretty original and wasn’t afraid to do some crazy story ideas.

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  19. CM

    Hilarious development today. OBama put out a lame ad using Big Bird. And the Sesame Workshop quickly sent a cease-and-desist saying they don’t want their show politicized.

    Brainless move from Obama’s team.

    CM, if you were to rent or netflix or hulu “Alien Nation” the movie not the TV series you’d get to see his genious even as a younger man.

    Neither are available down here in Backwards Land. I’ll find it though. Thanks.
    Is the tv series not good?

    Most of my taste is in my mouth.

    That’s awesome, I’m stealing it. You’re worth the price of admission.

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  20. Mississippi Yankee

    CM, the movie really caught the whole illegal alien dynamic. The fact that they were slave laborers from another universe grabbed you right away. The TV series just continued the character development. Plus it didn’t have James Caan’s swagger or Mandy Patinkin’s innocence.

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  21. repmom

    rich, if it wouldn’t be past career overload I suggest “Blue Bloods”

    One of my favorites. I love it. Only in 3rd season, so wouldn’t take long to catch up with Netflix.

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  22. CM

    CM, the movie really caught the whole illegal alien dynamic. The fact that they were slave laborers from another universe grabbed you right away. The TV series just continued the character development. Plus it didn’t have James Caan’s swagger or Mandy Patinkin’s innocence.

    Ok cool. Thanks for that.

    Will check out Blue Bloods too.

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