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Food Forethought

Where is the "public" in Public Broadcasting?

BY SUSAN ALLEN

When my boys were youngsters they loved Sesame Street so our television was routinely tuned to the Public Broadcasting Channel. I can still recall PBS's unique style of "advertising". The program would end, and a deep male voice would say, "Funding for this programming is brought to you by..... " Then he would announce (with authority) some wealthy family foundation or large corporation.

In those days it was expected that donors would sponsor programs in their area of interest or expertise. For example, timber companies would underwrite nature programming.

Times have changed. In today's politically charged world sparks flew when a consortium of agricultural commodity groups and corporations united to create quality educational agricultural programming that many environmentalists considered to be a conflict of interest.

Sadly there is no longer anything "public" about public broadcasting. In fact, public broadcasting has become the antithesis of Webster's' definition of the word public: to the people at large 2. open to, shared by, the people 3. known to all; not secret. 4. engaged in service to the people.

One would have to live in a myopic fog to miss the fact that PBS and American Public Television tend to be politically one-sided. What the mainstream majority fails to understand is the great power that extremists now exert over the media to impede programming that runs contrary to their beliefs. It is unfathomable that we allow this to occur given the fact that at least 15 percent of PBS' annual budget is federally funded, meaning you and I are paying for it.

Those of us that care a lick about traditional agriculture should be outraged when quality programs like America's Heartland, an exceptional series about American agriculture currently sponsored by The American Farm Bureau Federation and Monsanto with additional production and promotion assistance from American Soybean Association National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, United Soybean Board and U.S Grains Councils, stands to be canceled simply because vocal activist groups cite conflict of interest.

Friends of The Earth, Greenpeace, Animal Welfare Institute, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, PIRG and Sierra Club are a few of the organizations who have united to send a letter to the heads of American Public Television and a Sacramento PBS station demanding they pull the American Heartland series immediately from distribution because these factions were opposed to one episode on genetically engineered crops. I might add that none of these groups have even viewed any on the America's Heartland episodes, so how can you be so passionately disagreeing to something you have never seen.

Environmental extremists tremor at the decade of success that plant biotechnology has experienced, they live in a virtual state of panic worried that more and more of us will become aware of the big numbers behind GM crops. They don't want you to ever know that eight million farmers throughout the world last year planted 200 million acres of biotech crops in 17 countries, and when 2004 came to a close the accumulated global biotech acres worldwide reached 951 million.

They are labeled "extremists" because they will go to extreme lengths to keep under wraps the thrilling miracle medicines being developed through genetically engineered plants or the developing countries that are using GM technology to feed their hungry.

What should shake us down deep in our patriotic core is that this flagrant attempt at censorship might actually result in the cancellation of the whole American Heartland series. The extremist will always favor censorship over opinions they fear, and it is a travesty that we, the silent majority, allow it.

If you feel outraged over the possible cancellation of the American Heartland series on PBS and American Public Television, it is time to contact your local PBS station and speak up as an "agtivist "on behalf of American agriculture.

Susan Allen represents the Food Forethought Foundation, an advocate of the American farmer.

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