Today's Vox Populi

DON'T touch that dial! It's time once again for that long-running, biennial soap opera: The Perils of Public Broadcasting.

Reauthorization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to operate for a new three-year term (fiscal 1994-96) is being held up in Congress.

Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the minority leader, challenged the authorization bill at the behest of a number of his colleaques who feel public TV has a liberal bias. The bill's supporters decided last week to temporarily withdraw it. But debate will soon resume.

CPB was set up in 1967 by Congress to channel government and private funding to the nonprofit radio and television stations of PBS. (The reauthorization process begins two years in advance in order to avoid programming delays.)

Not surprisingly, the content of programs broadcast by the radio and television stations in the system has been watched closely by members of Congress and pressure groups. Most, but not all, criticism has come from the political right.

Some of the criticism has produced justifiable change - including giving control of grant money to PBS and keeping the CPB from detailed involvement in choosing programming.

PBS has to try to satisfy an audience with divergent tastes and needs in art and education. Since 1967 it has conscientiously striven to meet its mandate.

Our democratic society provides outlets for free expression of thought, talent, culture, and political philosophy. Disagreements in art and in politics are not feared but resolved through informed and honest dialogue.

It is in the best interest of the millions who benefit from public radio and television to keep funding them as plentifully as possible - and let differences over programming be resolved through civil public dialogue.

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