Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2002 / 21 Kislev, 5763
Talk is expensive when it comes to Bill Moyers
It is considered bad form in the world of broadcast journalism to criticize one's peers. It rarely happens, and when it does, the person lobbing the grenade often finds his foxhole quickly abandoned. That's because the TV and radio news business is really a small town where paths frequently cross. It is not nice to damage another person's career, since you may be working with or for that person some day.
And so it is with some trepidation that I take on the legendary Bill Moyers, now toiling at the tax-subsidized Public Broadcasting System (PBS). In the interest of fairness, I will tell you that Mr. Moyers has done some fine reporting and commentary on the plight of working Americans and has been rewarded with money and awards for doing so.
Let's take a look at both of those things, beginning with the money. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds PBS and NPR, has an annual budget of about $2.2 billion. More than $300 million of that comes from the American taxpayer, according to the CPB Web site (www.cpb.org).
Moyers' production company, Public Affairs Television, gets paid by PBS, but it is unclear how much since PBS will not say. In return for the compensation, he does a weekly commentary program and some documentaries.
But here's the rub, according to an article by Stephen Hayes in "The Weekly Standard," Moyers owns the documentaries, and after they are broadcast on PBS, he sells the videocassettes, keeping the proceeds. So, in effect, you and I are partially funding Bill's TV projects, which he is personally profiting from. Do you have a problem with that? I do.
And there's more. Mr. Moyers receives $200,000 a year as the president of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, which has assets of close to $100 million! Moyers gives $2 million of that to his son John to run a left-wing Website called Tom Paine.com. OK, fine, he's a good dad.
But Moyers also gives grant money to PBS and National Public Radio. PBS in turn pays his production company. Uh-oh. Can you say conflict of interest? According to public records, the Florence and John Schumann foundation donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to PBS and NPR in the '90s.
And the sweetheart deals continue. In 2000, Moyers won a Columbia/Dupont Gold Baton award for a documentary on South Africa. He was hailed by the judges as a worthy successor to Edward R. Murrow. But what would old Ed have thought about the fact that Moyers had been giving the Columbia Journalism Review big donation money?
Might have made for an interesting Murrow documentary.
Maybe I am being a bit unfair to Bill Moyers, but I have tried to get his side of the story. However, he will never come to the phone when I call. I am beginning to take it personally, and perhaps I should. In a speech shortly after September 11, Moyers called me a warmonger, or some such, for advocating strong military action against Afghanistan. And I will cop to that. While Moyers might have given them grant money, I wanted to pound those that protected the Taliban into the pavement, that is if there is any pavement over there.
But my problem with Moyers is not ideological. I applaud him for speaking out on the issues of the day. I just don't want to subsidize him. Call me crazy, but I believe that Bill Moyers should not be profiting from taxpayer money.
Back when Moyers was working for Lyndon Johnson in the '60s, the great society programs were being launched. Billions of tax dollars were earmarked to help Americans improve their situations. Apparently, Bill Moyers learned much from those entitlement programs, because 40 years later, he, himself, is prospering partially from public funding.
It is indeed a great society. Especially if you happen to be Bill Moyers.
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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the
Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author
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© 2001 Creators Syndicate