Petty Broadcasting Service

On October 9, 2013, I was proud to join Forecast the Facts in a protest outside of the headquarters of prominent PBS affiliate WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. That day, Forecast the Facts urged WGBH to sever ties with billionaire climate-change denier David Koch, a member of the station’s board of trustees since 1997.

Recently, Harper’s Magazine wrote about the Koch controversy at WGBH. Apparently, PBS wasn’t thrilled. As Brad Johnson of Hill Heat (who led the 2013 Forecast the Facts protest) notes:

According to the New York Post, the Public Broadcasting Service has suspended advertising in Harper’s Magazine after the journal published a story critical of David Koch’s relationship to public television. The billionaire carbon financier and Tea Party funder is on the board of Boston’s PBS flagship station WGBH, and until a recent New Yorker expose, served on the board of New York City’s WNET. Koch is also on the board overseeing WGBH’s science program NOVA

The political organizations founded and run by the Koch brothers — particularly the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity — are committed against public funding for the arts, including public television. Their advocacy over the past thirty years has successfully decimated federal and local support for public television. Through these organizations, Koch supports the miseducation of the public, including children, on the existential threat of climate change. Koch Industries is one of the nation’s largest and most toxic polluters, and Koch works to prevent government efforts to protect the public from that pollution.

WGBH is providing David Koch not only a tax write-off but also social legitimacy, despite his being one of their greatest enemies.

Emily Southard of Forecast the Facts notes that PBS has “lost its moral compass”:

Over 300,000 have petitioned asking for David Koch to be removed from PBS’ largest broadcaster. At PBS events, employees have blocked criticism of Koch’s position on the board. In March, PBS staff refused member questions about the Koch-PBS link at a member forum on climate change. In May, WGBH staff blocked a journalist from covering a Koch-themed protest. Is PBS serving corporations or the public?

Well, we certainly know PBS is self-serving. Good to see the criticism is getting to them. There will be more criticism next week, as Johnson notes:

Activists with Forecast the Facts and the Better Future Project will be protesting again in Boston and delivering a 400,000-signature petition at WGBH’s upcoming board meeting on Wednesday, October 1.

While I unfortunately won’t be able to make it this year, I encourage readers in the Boston area to attend–because it’s time to block the next Koch shipment from arriving.

UPDATE: From October 2013, WGBH’s public-affairs program Greater Boston covers the initial Forecast the Facts protest. (The interview with Peter Dykstra of the Daily Climate referenced in the second clip can be found here.)

SECOND UPDATE: Talk about not covering oneself in glory…

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.