A Case for Public Broadcasting: No Dysfunctional Fame Whores

03/11/2011 02:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

This not a political blog. I understand that politics pervades everything, but I'm not pushing a political agenda. I'm pushing a human agenda.

As a journalist for decades, I avoided making political statements at all costs. Back then you lost your job for it. Today, it's nearly a prerequisite for employment in some networks.

As the head of a company that produces TV and radio content, I avoid stories that make blatant political statements because they only diminish the potential impact. Improving your health, chasing your dreams and improving your community shouldn't be about politics. Of course, the current battle over the future of public broadcasting is highly politicized. My goal is to simply relay a perspective about public television from my very specific vantage point.

We produce a show that encourages people of all ages, all colors and every socioeconomic status to become all that they can by pursuing their passions, improving their well-being and helping others.

I humbly submit that it's the rare program that is both entertaining and empowering. I know this because we get unsolicited praise from viewers all over the country. I know this because it has gone from two television stations to 268 stations in just a matter of months.

And it's a show that had little to no chance of initially finding a home on commercial TV. Not because it doesn't have high production values -- it does. And not because it doesn't have the potential to attract a large audience and enthusiastic advertisers -- it does. It's because it's nearly impossible for a new show that doesn't target 18- to 34-year-olds to find a home -- especially a show with a modest budget produced by a little company in Orlando.

Commercial airways are clogged with contrived formulaic shows. Give dysfunctional fame whores national exposure and the very clear understanding that only outlandish behavior ends up on the screen and you've got Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of Wherever, Cheaters, Bad Girls Club, For the Love of Ray J, The Hills, Flavor of Love and a dozen others.

Public television provides an opportunity for programs that aspire to something more than a train wreck the chance to find an audience. It's an incubator of sorts for shows with actual redeeming social value. That's what PBS did for children's programming in the '80s and continues to do to this day for quality programming in many underserved niches. Without public broadcasting, a show that might one day provide significant value to millions would never get a chance to be seen.

If you're content watching Snooki puke on the beach and overdressed housewives bitch slap one another while spewing obscenities, then public media is not for you. If you like media that is relentlessly driven by profit motive, demographics and advertising dollars, irrespective of the quality of programming, then public media is not for you. If you enjoy programming that is little more than rudderless behavior in pursuit of little more than moments that make viewers wince, then public media is not for you.

If, however, you believe that meaningful, interesting niche programming deserves a chance to find an audience, then you should be concerned about the possibility of public broadcasting going away. If a trip through your channel guide leaves you as disappointed as it does me, just wait. Soon, Jersey Shore and Real Housewives will be syndicated in reruns, eating up more on-air real estate while new, even more outlandish programs, battle for your attention.

Of course, there is nothing real about most reality TV. The pseudo-celebs that are feasting on this decline of western civilization know they'll end up on the cutting room floor unless they give the producers what they mistakenly call drama. But it's not drama. It's just very bad behavior and sadly, it's become the currency of "successful" commercial television programming.

I won't make a sweeping political statement about the importance of public media. I offer only the admittedly biased opinion of someone who has been given an opportunity by public media. In a world driven exclusively by profit motive and in an industry that's as willing to provide viewers mindless garbage as a drug dealer is to sell crack to addicts, a media organization that aspires to something more noble is an absolute necessity.

When broadcasters only serve the largest audience, the biggest advertisers and the lowest common denominator, we all lose.

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