Jan 14, 2012

Hentoff: Romney cuts in pubcasting funding would "create a dark hole in our lives"

Civil libertarian and writer Nat Hentoff is taking on GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's comments on the campaign trail that PBS needs to run commercials instead of take federal funding. In a piece on the website of the libertarian Cato Institute, where Hentoff is a senior fellow, he writes, "If Mitt Romney and his defunding colleagues have their way and commercialize Sesame Street, Big Bird and the other puppets are going to be cajoling their young audience to keep bugging their parents to buy what Big Bird is selling."

"If Mitt Romney makes these cuts," Hentoff adds, "he will create a dark hole in our lives that will defy James Madison's warning — which becomes more contemporary every day: 'A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives . . . a popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both."

Meanwhile, Romney repeated his attack on pubcasting funding in an appearance in Florida on Thursday (Jan. 12), saying, once again, that he's a fan of pubTV but it needs to support itself through advertising. "I'm afraid Big Bird is going to have to get used to Kellogg's Corn Flakes," he said at a stop in West Palm Beach, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Portia Clark, who worked on early Fred Rogers show at WQED, dies at 91

Portia Clark, a longtime personality in New York City publishing circles who began her career in public broadcasting, died Jan. 1, according to Publishers Weekly. She was 91.

She started her professional life at WQED in Pittsburgh in the early days of public television. One of the shows she worked on was The Children’s Corner, where Fred Rogers developed puppets that turned into characters in Mister Rogers Neighborhood. [Editor's Note: The Publishers Weekly obituary originally identified that program as The Children's Hour.] She also produced TV shows at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism’s Office of Radio and Television.

Clark went on to positions at at Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Oxford University Press, where "she helped define the field of book promotion to libraries," PW said. She traveled the country, known for her "razor-sharp wit, smoky laugh, and her shock of coiffed white hair."

A memorial service is planned for Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., in the spring. The family suggests donations to Doctors Without Borders.