The Independent Television Service was established by Congress in 1988 with legislation directing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to establish ITVS with "a national coalition of independent producer groups." Currently, CPB awards $15 million a year to ITVS, a one-sided, left-wing "independent" filmmakers' organizing center. ITVS saw its purpose to be "a catalyst for change, a way for independent producers to participate in and define the cultural dialogue of public television." Today, that "cultural dialogue" is being defined from Nancy Pelosi's congressional district, at
When it comes to sexual politics, the tax dollars funneled into ITVS have long been used to promote the libertine left, beginning in the early 1990s with the films of the late Marlon Riggs, a gay black filmmaker and the maker of the explicitly gay film Tongues Untied, and a liberal darling who drew taxpayer funding from a plethora of government "arts" agencies. That history of left-wing advocacy against social conservatives funded and promoted by ITVS continues to the present:
– Jane: An Abortion Service (1998) chronicled an underground abortion movement in
– And Baby Makes Two (1999) explored single mothers by choice. The Independent Lens website promoted it as "a candid and emotional documentary about a group of thirty and forty-something single women in
– Scout's Honor (2001) aired in June as part of the PBS documentary series P.O.V. (where films are hailed for their "point of view.") Filmmaker Tom Shepard set out to embarrass the Boy Scouts of America for failing to allow openly gay Scouts. He boasted of the political potential of his film: "The Boy Scouts could be a really useful organization in the new century. Are they going to cling to these antiquated policies of the past or jump on board with contemporary society?"
In an hour, viewers saw about a minute of fleeting snippets of conservatives such as Pat Buchanan, Rev. Lou Sheldon, and anonymous talking heads opposing the film's liberal heroes. Not even reviewers from liberal newspapers were buying the line that PBS was achieving "balance" with the film. "Conservatives may bristle while watching it," acknowledged The
– Daddy & Papa (2003) promoted the cultural revolution of gay parenting, "the growing number of gay men who are making a decision that is at once traditional and revolutionary: to become dads." PBS seemingly had no objections to filmmaker Johnny Symons being "too close" to his subject as he explored his own adoption of two boys. Symons stressed the usual hope for liberal impact: "My filmmaking is motivated by social activism. I love the opportunity to change people's belief systems, or to reveal that something that seems clear-cut is in fact quite complex....I also hope the film will inspire more gay men to become parents, and encourage more social workers, judges, and politicians to use their positions of power to make this possible."
ITVS reported the film was used by the City of
– The Great Pink Scare (2005) chronicled an arrest of 15 men in
Once again, the subject was not only political, but personal. Filmmaker Tug Yourgrau explained "My father taught at
– The Amasong Chorus: Singing Out (2004) chronicled how a "lesbian/feminist choir" in
– The Education of Shelby Knox (2005) began the summer season of the P.O.V. series on PBS, complete with a media tour touting a liberal conversion story: "Shelby, a devout Christian who has pledged abstinence until marriage herself, becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education, profoundly changing her political and spiritual views along the way." From fighting against abstinence-only sex education, Knox then becomes an activist for gay students.
The film synopsis explains she declares herself a liberal Democrat, shocking her Republican parents. "But when an organization whose slogan is 'God Hates Fags' comes to Lubbock to protest the gay kids' lawsuit, Shelby, along with her mother, joins a counter protest, carrying a sign that reads 'God Loves Everybody,' and affirming a belief that will guide her into adulthood: "I think that God wants you to question," Shelby says, "to do more than just blindly be a follower, because he can't use blind followers." The film was funded not only by CPB, but by the Playboy Foundation, among other foundation donors, and became a hit at Planned Parenthood centers.
– Screaming Queens: The Riot at
A film about "the lost history of transgender militancy" would sound to many Americans like the definition of wasteful government spending. But taxpayers subsidize filmmakers to chronicle the most obscure and exotic topics, because their complete lack of appeal to a broader public is precisely what defines these little movies as edgy and "independent." In funding filmmakers to go out and make one-sided left-wing films, Public Broadcasting subsidies serve, in effect, as ideological pork-barrel spending.
Conservatives not only have to raise their own funds if they wanted to make a film about broader movement subjects (the history of American conservatism) or narrow ones (a personal film about Christian home-schoolers) – they end up paying for the left admiring itself in the mirror instead. In reality, few of these conservative films have been made, in part because the federal government isn't providing tens of millions of dollars to make it happen. But whether these left-wing films reach a broad audience on national television or just a narrow audience in small left-wing circles in isolated communities, ITVS is a never-ending spigot for one side of the political divide.
This article is excerpted from the MRC Special Report No Fairness Doctrine for PBS.