Poor Ezra Klein really got it in the neck yesterday from the Reason crew, following his tepid argument for state-funded journalism based on examples in Sweden and Britain. Matt Welch kicked off with a cruel (and funny) attack on Klein’s prose style, then eviscerated his case for public-service media. Michael C Moynihan agreed with his editor, saying that Klein “insists upon holding forth on subjects with which he seems unfamiliar.”
I am completely unfamiliar with the Swedish press, so shouldn’t hold forth, but I know a little about the BBC, having wasted many, many hours moaning about it. Klein is, as Moynihan notes, wrong when he says that the Beeb “need not compete on grounds of sensationalism.” The BBC today is the greatest dumb-downer on earth. It patronizes the pants off its audience by softening hard news with twinkling music to ensure the viewer or listener knows the appropriate mood. It lavishes tax-and-license payer cash on as much celeb-trash content as possible. And any Briton can tell you about the BBC’s irritating Lefty-liberal bias, its maddening PC orthodoxy, and its subservience to the multi-culti state.
Would we be better off if the BBC were scrapped, though? The Beeb does do lots of things very well. TAC contributing editor Stuart Reid listed them in an excellent defense of Auntie last year. (Scroll down to November, 2008).
This might be an issue on which conservatives and libertarians part ways. But you don’t have to be a reactionary fogey to appreciate something like the World Service, which helped American soldiers know what was going on in Iraq when their commanders didn’t offer them a clue. I doubt that such a station could exist in a private sphere.
That’s not to say that a comparable United States Broadcasting Corporation would benefit America. Far from it. But public service media is not always and altogether bad.