UPDATE, MARCH 17, 12:41 P.M.: The U.S. House of Representatives just voted to defund National Public Radio (NPR). The matter now goes to the Senate.
Start buying those tote bags.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 11, 7:58 A.M.: The president and CEO of PBS SoCal (formerly KOCE-TV/Channel 50), Mel Rogers, could not have known when he recently warned of government budget cuts to public television what loomed on the horizon.
Or, more accurately, who: Republican provocateur James O'Keefe.
O'Keefe, famous/infamous for raising his pimp hand to ACORN, grabbed headlines this week for duping NPR with actors posing as members of the fictional Muslim Education Action
Center Trust–leading to some high-level departures from the public-radio network that is partly supported by government grants.
Then came the disclosure that the Muslim Education Action
Center Trust fakers also met with PBS's senior vice president for
development, Brian Reddington. It's unclear whether O'Keefe's cameras were rolling for that lunch to confirm PBS's spin: that Reddington had
“profound concerns about the organization,” which led the network to investigate and eventually cut off contact with the merry pranksters.
No matter. The NPR lunch did enough damage to embolden budget-shredders on Capitol Hill to call for gutting taxpayer funding of public radio and PBS, CPB and anything starring Elmo.
It makes Rogers look like Kreskin when he writes that the No. 1 source for educational programming for children, educational resources for teachers of the young and news for millions of people was endangered. The PBS allocation is tiny, but the impact will be huge, according to Rogers.
Here's a link to Rogers' letter. You'll also find it on the PBS SoCal page that lists the members of the board of the PBS SoCal Foundation, which owns the station. At the top of the list is the board's chairwoman, Jo Ellen Chatham.
Longtime Weekly readers likely know her more from her previous married name, Jo Ellen Allen. My colleague R. Scott Moxley put Jo Ellen and her late husband Eddie Allen through his journalistic Cuisinart when “Fast Eddie” found himself at the center of one of Orange County's most spectacular civil fraud trials.
This was a case that hit all the OC bases: colorful CIA spooks, jungle-torture allegations, right-wing politics, infidelity, brazenly deceitful financial schemes, crusty decorated Vietnam War generals–and a mainstream-media blackout from the MIA Orange County Register and barely there Los Angeles Times.
Surely, the dailies were not gun-shy due to Jo Ellen being dragged into the case. I mean, it's not like she was vice chairwoman of the Orange County Republican Party, vice president of the Orange County Taxpayers Association, a frequent candidate for local office, a frequent talking head on local and national television, and, most important, the go-to conservative female frequently filling their funny papers, one so conservative female she opposed equal rights for women.
Oh, wait a minute, she was those things!
Anyway, Chatham is one of those convenient conservatives who talks the choke-government-in-the-crib talk when it's government assistance for poor people, unwed mothers or those lacking healthcare. But touch a hair on the head of her precious, barely watched public-television station and she may as well change her name again, this time to Jo Ellen Guevara.
It's the same brand of conservatism radioman Hugh Hewitt employs when he opposes all tax hikes except those his fellow Irvine residents pay to support the schools his kids attend.
Jon Fleischman of the conservative Flash Report and Steven Greenhut then of the libertarian Register editorial page called Jo Ellen out in 2006 for undermining religious-televangelist broadcaster Daystar's highest bid for KOCE, which the Coast Community College District had put up for sale. Working behind-the-scenes with Democrats in Sacramento, the then-KOCE
Foundation got legislation written allowing the college district to
ignore Daystar's higher bid and hand ownership over to the foundation through a dubious funding scheme.
"Local Republican big-shot Jo Ellen Allen's defense of a disreputable
piece of legislation regarding the sale of public-TV station KOCE was a
tour de force in liberal reasoning,” Greenhut fumed. "I know Allen is generally viewed as a
conservative, but such conservatism doesn't apply with regards to her
role as chairwoman of the KOCE-TV Foundation Board of Directors. In her
letter, she uses all the typical beside-the-point, touchy-feely claptrap
we have become accustomed to from those on the Left: 'Finally, and most
important, is what KOCE-TV means to Orange County. The real owners of
KOCE-TV are its viewers and supporters.' Oh, give me a break.”
Fleischman, who has to drink blood with these people, was slightly more kind: "Jo Ellen is a student of history and
understands very well the limited role that our Founding Fathers had for
government in America. A role that did not include subsidizing
television stations. I spoke with Allen about this sale, and she feels
quite strongly that there is a 'community interest' in there continuing
to be a KOCE television station and that trustees should be able to
take that into consideration when they select a winning bid.” In the end, the deal won the Flash Report's 2006 Legislative Golden Trashcan Award.
Even the center-right Los Angeles Times editorial page called the deal "a gift of public funds.”
(Meanwhile, Rick Reiff, who has a news chat program that graduated from KOCE to PBS SoCal, set aside his fiscal-conservative bona fides to find fault with the involvement in the deal of another Orange County GOP official: chairman Scott Baugh, who Daystar retained as a lobbyist. "Baugh's actions against the hometown station still have raised
eyebrows,” Reiff wrote in his weekly Orange County Business Journal column.)
After the case wound through the Superior Courts and appeals courts and back and forth through the Legislature, the matter was settled with the foundation retaining ownership but allowing Daystar to broadcast on one of the station's three digital services.
As Jo Ellen would say, it takes a village.