March 5, 1999


OPINION

KPBS Radio in San Diego Abuses Its Government Funding to Shill for Prop "L" Library Tax

Prepared by Steve Green
Chair Libertarian Party

KPBS San Diego is part of the Public Broadcasting System, a left wing organization which receives federal grants and tax deductible contributions to advance its Big Government agenda. Most recently this blatant misuse of the public trust became quite evident in the KPBS airing of shows on Prop L, the San Diego County library sales tax measure that failed miserably at the polls.

Prior to the election, "These Days," an hour long talk show produced by Gloria Penner, aired four shows on the issue of local libraries. Three were unabashed informmercials for Prop L, with no opposition whatsoever. Libertarian Party activist and Prop L opponent Richard Rider called and strongly complained, but was told that opposition would only be tolerated in the final show. This last show was a debate at the South Clairemont Public Library, with Richard Rider pitted against Prop L supporter George Mitrovich and a so-called "neutral" panelist who turned out to get anything but! The neutral panelist was city employee and library booster William Sannwald, whose title is "Manager, Library Design and Development." The fact that Mr. Sannwald was a city employee apparently campaigning for higher taxes during business hours on city property is a separate matter from the blatant bias of KPBS.

The KPBS news department didn't cover the opposition to Prop L until after this late debate (23 February, a week before election). Prior to that they had run numerous "stories" on Prop L, and apparently never contacting the opponents for input or sound bytes. The day before the debate, Mr. Rider had faxed KPBS (and other radio and TV stations) complaining about such one-sided coverage. Without that complaint, it is problematical whether or not KPBS news would have ever covered the Prop L opponents in a news story.

But it didn't end with the election. The day after the election, Ms. Penner had Prop L political consultant Scott Maloni on her show to blast the Prop L opponents (and particularly Richard Rider) for having the audacity to dramatically defeat Prop L. Ms. Penner even said to Scott "then it's Richard Rider vs. the community." Such comments are acceptable in debate format, but unconscionable when opponents are screened off the show, even after they win a convincing victory. After all, over 160,000 people in the county voted against the tax, while only a thousand more voted for it, and it needed a 2/3 majority to win.

Such actions by any radio station would be reprehensible. But KPBS has a special status as a public radio station. The use of government money, government facilities (they broadcast from the SDSU campus) and government subsided private donations to campaign for higher taxes should be a prohibited action.

The San Diego Libertarian Party calls for the end of government grants to this station, and the withdrawal of their charitable status for tax purposes. They have repeatedly violated their sacred trust as a neutral source of information. Indeed, they are a classic example of why government should not be in the broad business, PERIOD. It's time to put an end to us taxpayers funding propaganda designed to raise our own taxes.

We will be contacting the appropriate government authorities and politicians to seek the removal of KPBS from the government teat. Admitted the chances of success are small, but we think someone has to bring this misuse of taxpayer subsidies to light. It's time to level the playing field for Bid Government radio advocates on the public dole.

The KPBS high tax proponents can instead go out and deliver their message in the private market, with private advertising and private support. Admittedly, we suspect that they would quickly go bankrupt, to match the current state of their outdated collectivist philosophy.

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