Howard Husock of the Manhattan Institute, a former member of the board at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, penned an article for The Wall Street Journal provocatively titled “Racial Division, Made Possible by Viewers Like You: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is pushing identity politics—except at pledge time.”
Pledge time is when all the warm and fuzzy and mainstream concerts and shows come on. But CPB is funding a hive of programming focused on leftist identity politics. Some CPB money goes to the children’s programming that brands PBS as educational TV.
But millions go to nonfiction documentary programming made by independent producers, and that’s where the focus on identity politics becomes clear. The corporation provides grant support to five so-called minority consortia, including African-American, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander groups, as well as Alaska natives.
Additional support is directed toward the Independent Television Service, which funds independent film producers. ITVS maintains a “diversity development fund,” which has supported projects such as a feminist examination of cheerleading and a video game that introduces players to the hardships and perils of crossing the Sonoran Desert as a migrant.
ITVS also funds LGBT advocacy documentaries, like the recent Independent Lens program Real Boy about a girl transforming herself into a “trans man.” Then there’s the racial dividing:
Current-affairs programming funded by the CPB can reflect a similar sensibility. The Talk, a PBS documentary, reduces the complexities of police-minority relations to advice minority parents are said to give their children about how to behave around cops. The program’s website advises that “one’s never too young to get woke about race.” Identity politics also pervade radio. NPR’s “Code Switch” [webpage/unit] deals with the “overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture.”
Many of these projects are well-done and affecting. As a public-television producer, I once produced a series about racial violence in changing Boston neighborhoods and a film about affirmative action in a selective public high school. But organizing program grants around specific identity groups isn’t good for America—or the groups being represented. There are other ways to reflect the full range of Americans in public-broadcasting programming.
Those who commission such programs are committed to a deeply embedded ideology. They see American history, politics and culture predominantly through a prism of race and gender. Millions of Americans share this view, but millions more look at the country’s past and present in an entirely different way.
Husock sensibly concluded that if the Congress and the president are going to continue to approve funding for public broadcasting, it ought to be focused more on unifying America than dividing it. But that would obviously run counter to the way they currently play in the taxpayer-funded left-wing sandbox.