Cuts to PBS threaten climate change coverage

President Donald Trump’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, which funds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in turn, endangers the funding of the Public Broadcasting Service. A valuable network, PBS’s elimination or reduction in funding would affect coverage of vital topics like climate change.

A recent report from Media Matters found that PBS covered climate change more than any other network in 2016. In 2016, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News spent a combined 50 minutes covering climate change on their nightly news and Sunday shows — a 61.5 percent decrease from 2015. In comparison, PBS had more than twice as many climate change-related segments than those networks combined.

Major news networks also failed to make climate change a primary focus of the presidential election. Few climate-related questions were asked during debates, as the issue was ignored in favor of emails and Access Hollywood tapes. Networks including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News failed to air a single segment on the effects of a Trump presidency on climate change until after the election.

Government subsidization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is often viewed as a waste of taxpayer money and is fiscally irresponsible. Recent estimates, however, state that PBS costs the taxpayer only $1.35 per year. The elimination of programs that fund PBS primarily threaten smaller stations, especially in rural areas.

Climate change presents a pressing threat worldwide. Its effects are already being felt, through changing weather patterns, increases in natural disasters and the addition of the bumblebee to the endangered species list. A recent Yale opinion poll estimates that only 24 percent of people report hearing about global warming in the media at least once a week. The same poll estimates that 58 percent of people report being worried about climate change.

News should not be dictated by what is entertaining and attention-grabbing. News corporations should report on issues that are relevant, important and deserving of public attention. Networks like PBS that contribute unbiased, substantial reporting on climate change deserve support.

A society fully educated on the world’s most pressing problems is one freer and more empowered. Major news programs’ malignant refusal to dedicate adequate coverage of climate change is alarming. Cuts to comprehensive networks like PBS present threats not only to public knowledge about climate change but also to freedom and a well-informed democracy.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Camille is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected].

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