Charleston Gazette Editorial Staff
Published February 15, 2017
Public broadcasting is a West Virginia treasure. It brings top-quality culture and drama, plus the best science and history, plus education for children and adults.
With the state government teetering on self-inflicted bankruptcy, new Gov. Jim Justice wants to halt public support for Public Radio and Public Television — a drastic loss that probably would force stations to close, unable to survive purely on donations. This would be tragic.
Justice’s $4.6 million PBS cut isn’t prescribed in his worst-case plan outlining desperate steps the state must take if the Republican-controlled Legislature refuses to raise taxes. Instead, the governor put PBS abolition in his preferred budget, even if taxes are raised.
The 2017 Legislature has a solemn duty to raise enough revenue to keep the state government functioning. Conservative lawmakers must abandon their “no new taxes” pledges and act responsibly. They mustn’t let West Virginia flounder into the gutter, as Detroit did.
Saving PBS should be a top priority. Charleston Republican figure Ted Armbrecht, chairman of the state Public Broadcasting Foundation, and Susan Hogan, head of Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, issued a statement calling Justice’s reductions “unwise and irresponsible.”
“Eliminating all state funding endangers our ability to provide PBS Kids programming to low-income children who need it most,” they said. “WVPB’s main PBS channel provides 67 hours per week of educational children’s programming. And the station just launched a new 24/7 PBS Kids Channel.”
They said the West Virginia Learning Media website serves 6,000 educators and home-schoolers in West Virginia. Halting of state tax support would force a shutdown of many of the 27 PBS towers around the state, they warned.
In a commentary on this page on Tuesday, Armbrecht pointed out that such a cut would endanger funds matched to state spending.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting is exactly the kind of public/private operation devised over time to give West Virginians the most for their dollar. It is worth saving.
Killing public broadcasting would take West Virginia backward.