Irony hovers over public TV coverage of sequester

Think of this irony for a moment.

Public television gets some of its money from Congress, which appropriates money collected from taxpayers. Much of that money, of course, from private foundations and donations from individuals who give willingly to support public TV stations — such as KACV-TV.

The irony is evident in public television’s role in covering the looming budget crisis called “sequestration.” Remember the so-called “fiscal cliff”? We averted that disaster in the final hours of 2012 only to find ourselves facing another possible crisis if and when sequestration kicks in Friday. Were that to happen, the federal government — under the law approved in 2011 — would have to cut budgets automatically across the board in every federal line item. That includes money for public television.

Perhaps the most maddening aspect of all this is that Congress and the White House proposed sequestration as a deterrent against this kind of crisis. No one ever dreamed that sequestration would arrive at our doorstep. But it has.

The Public Broadcasting Service will be on the job covering this event through the week. As always, the coverage will be smart and analytical. But I’m struck by the irony associated with it all.

PBS won’t go dark if sequestration takes effect. It will, however, will feel the crunch once the federal budget axe falls.

What’s at stake overall? The White House and Congress are haggling over spending cuts vs. additional revenue. The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives wants to reduce the deficit almost exclusively through spending cuts. The Democratic-led White House — where President Obama and his family will live for the next four years — want additional revenues included in a deficit-reduction plan. Both sides emphasize different priorities. Stalemate has gripped the process like a vise.

The impact of this sequester depends on who’s evaluating it. Some “experts” say it won’t harm the economy. Other “experts” paint a different picture.

And public television is now caught in the middle of it, reporting dispassionately on a process that causes concern among many that public TV’s newsgathering machinery will suffer harm if the sequester is activated.

Stay tuned to KACV-TV to learn the latest.

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