If the argument over whether or not public broadcasting should be defunded was centered on quality alone, says Mark Oppenheimer at Slate, it would be easy to build a case for NPR. The nonprofit broadcast network is "the most resounding media success story of the past 40 years." From its "inconsequential" origins, it has grown to become a home to "intelligent, serious news coverage," and "quirky and cerebral" shows like "This American Life" and "Radiolab." It has thrived, even while FM radio has become a "dreary wasteland." The same cannot be said for NPR's "hideous, ugly televised brother," PBS. Back in the 1970s, PBS offered "ambitious, interesting programming." Now, we're presented with content that has "all the intelligence of VH1 and all the youth appeal of CBS." Here, an excerpt:
Even in its best weeks, PBS lacks any sort of coherent sensibility. At a time when the most successful networks have an obvious style — the illicit, pervy edge of Showtime's "Weeds" and "Californication"; the fine-grained realism of HBO's best dramas — PBS shows are defined variously by shameless baby-boomer pandering of the self-help or nostalgia variety, by a kind of earnest love of newsy documentaries, or by old-school PBS Anglophilia.