Readers Respond to Charges of `Elitism' on Public Television

Recently several letters have commented on an Alan Bunce column about PBS published in the Ideas section on Aug. 1. The Monitor is delighted with such responses and the reader-interest they represent, and Mr. Bunce's Aug. 29 column will further develop his thesis.

I find in Mr. Bunce's article ``Checking PBS for Elitism,'' the plaint that has been leveled against PBS since its founding years ago. A certain small percentage of TV viewers seems anxious to lower the quality of public broadcasting to that of commercial TV.

Through the years since the founding of PBS, like most public broadcasting viewers, I have supported those telecasts with yearly contributions. And like many Californians I have talked to, my wife and I seldom watch any TV but PBS.

My dictionary defines ``elite'' as ``the finest, the best, the most distinguished.'' Those are my principal reasons for watching the superb programs on PBS! Leslie H. Avery Berkeley, Calif.

Mr. Bunce's article touched me. I feel the same responses to ``Masterpiece Theatre,'' ``This Old House,'' ``Wall Street Week,'' etc. I would dearly love to see more than a sprinkling of well-made American theater to match the British productions. I really warmed to his critique of the lack of presence of labor's [viewpoints] in PBS programming. Harold A. Osborn Yachats, Ore.

Alan Bunce seems to confuse slobocracy with democracy. With ``Roseanne'' as an example for PBS, we would have little choice for quality comedy or drama.

If studies of content [of the kind cited in the column], pious but self-interested, can snidely crowd out the British programs then PBS won't be living up to it's mandate by presenting the best choices it can offer. And education will suffer. Richard Lipscomb Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Alan Bunce may note that PBS has ``no equivalent of commercial TV's ``Roseanne,'' but I say, ``Thank God!'' And nobody is ``force-feeding viewers'' on things like ballet; they are free to turn their dials to commercial channels, which consistently cater to the lowest common denominator in order to hike their ratings and, thus, their profits.

The plain fact is that PBS consistently offers alternative programming. So three cheers for PBS! Allen F. Chew Colorado Springs, Colo.

Alan Bunce has chosen to reinforce an inaccurate and unfair perception of public television and thereby to strengthen those who are always looking for an excuse to cut further its inadequate funding.

Those who cry ``Elitist!'' assume that ordinary middle- and working-class people have no interest in opera, ballet, good drama, science, ideas, public affairs, or how to invest their money - an assumption not shared by European societies. There is a kind of American compulsion to reduce everything to mediocrity in the name of a phony egalitarianism. The only non-cable source of high-quality artistic, cultural, scientific, and news programming is PBS. Sarah Trulove and James Woelfel Lawrence, Kan.

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