From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
You gotta spin it to win it
Icon media.svg
Stop the presses!
We want pictures
of Spider-Man!
Extra! Extra!
Malory: It’s public television. They don’t pay anything! All they do is suck money in. They take our taxes...

Lana: Or donations. Whatever.

Malory: Of pre-tax dollars! From pot-taking, Bolshevik lesbian couples! Then PBS mixes it all in with their huge NEAWikipedia's W.svg grants,[1] launders it in inner-city methadone clinics, and pumps it right back out to pro-abortion super-PACs!
—Malory Archer and Lana Kane, "Archer"[2]

The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit broadcast television service. The successor to National Educational Television, PBS began broadcasting in 1970 and is carried by various member stations that determine their own schedules of PBS programming.


Programs on PBS cover a variety of educational, informational, and cultural topics. From Monday to Friday, PBS shows children's programming in the daytime hours, followed by the PBS NewsHour (formerly The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) in evenings. (Some affiliates in the West Coast, like KQED in San Francisco and KNPB in Reno, show the NewsHour live at 3 p.m. Pacific.) Frontline is the investigative journalism program. Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley also host daily talk shows for PBS.

There is also a good variety of science-related programs like Nova, the musical programs Austin City Limits and Great Performances, and the fine arts program Masterpiece Theatre among others.

Many PBS stations also import programs from the UK, including BBC World News and various British sitcoms and dramas from past and present. Masterpiece Theatre and Masterpiece Mystery! also bring many British shows to American audiences, Downton Abbey for instance. NOVA still repackages programs that were originally from BBC2 program Horizon.

In the 1970 through 1980s many PBS stations would have shows designed to assist teachers at all levels of education in the 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM block mixed in with more generalized programing. So you would have Thinkabout, The Metric System and even a late high school early college level show narrated by biologist Professor James Moriarty III, Wordsmith with Bob Smith (which explored and used the concept of "word cells") mixed in with Sesame Street and Electric Company as well The Joy of Painting and various reading programs with John Robbins as host (in some shows he would quick draw the scene being read by the narrator). By the 1990s most of these shows were gone replaced by fare for younger audiences.

Be prepared for an endless barrage of self-help programs from figures like Suze Orman and Wayne Dyer and musical programs during "pledge weeks" in which PBS pitches these programs on DVD to raise funds. Even worse, expect a serious overdose of medical woo from the likes of Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman, Joel Fuhrman and Gary Null for the same purpose.[3] See Skeptoid's episode on "Bad Science on PBS" for more about how the programming and funding of the "weird New Agey, pseudosciencey, mind-over-mattery, self-helpy woo" special presentations actually work.[4] See also Executive Programming Services for where these special programs come from.

Accusations of bias[edit]

  • In June 23, 2005 the conservative Media Research Center accused PBS of promoting left-wing ideology in its programming while rejecting right-wing points of view, in violation of the federal Public Broadcasting Act requiring "that fairness and objectivity should be observed in 'all programming of a controversial nature.'"[5] This claim ignored the fact that way back in 1969 the Supreme Court had ruled with Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC that while the FCC had the right to enforce the Fairness DoctrineWikipedia's W.svg, it was not obliged to do so. More over Telecommunications Research and Action Center v. FCC, 801 F.2d 501 (D.C. Cir. 1986) and Meredith Corp. v. FCC in 1987 expressly declared that Congress did not mandate the doctrine. So Media Research Center was crying about something the FCC hadn't been required to do for nearly 20 years!
  • During the late 1990s, PBS broadcast a program called National Desk that promoted misinformation regarding public education and sexism, often with undisclosed connections between its right-wing sources and funders.[6]
  • When George W. Bush crony Ken Tomlinson became the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS dumped Bill Moyers and replaced him with the Wall Street Journal-produced Journal Editorial Report and another talk show hosted by Tucker Carlson.[7] Moyers returned to PBS in 2007.
  • David H. Koch is a sponsor of Nova; given how Koch's business has so much axe to grind against climate change legislation it brings pressure to downplay science that undermines the oil industry.[8][9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. FYI: They're actually pretty small, and have been diminished in the last couple of years.
  2. Season 5, episode 5 ("Archer Vice": "Southbound And Down". Yep, this was the drug cartel season), as transcribed in Villain Quote of the Day.
  3. Robert Burton, PBS's latest infomercial Salon
  4. Skeptoid: "Bad Science on PBS" January 26, 2016.
  5. Public Broadcasting: Your Taxes Fund Liberal Bias. Media Research Center: June 23, 2005.
  6. PBS's National Desk (Extra!, July/August 2000), Out of School (ibid)
  7. Inclusion vs. Exclusion at PBS (Extra!, September/October 2005)
  8. Is Nova Catering to Its Anti-Science Sugar Daddy? FAIR: September 8, 2010.
  9. Getler, Michael. "David Koch and PBS: The Odd Couple." PBS: May 25, 2013.
  10. Getler, Michael. "Global Warming, Koch and NOVA." PBS: December 11, 2015.