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#SOTU: winner of Science Fair, not Superbowl

January 26, 2011

One of the big bi-partisan applause lines in last night’s State of the Union address was when President Obama said we need an education system and a media culture that celebrates the winner of the Science Fair and not just the winner of the Superbowl.

Just about everybody in the room gave that line a standing ovation.

You know why we don’t celebrate the Science Fair winners like we do the Superbowl winners? Because broadcasting media content about local science fair winners doesn’t pay the bills.

Media companies need to make a profit. They distribute content that millions of people nationwide want to consume. If millions won’t regularly tune in, the content is cancelled.

This is part of what makes capitalism great. In cases like the Science Fair vs. the Superbowl, it’s also our Achilles heel. We can overcome it while keeping our free market ideals intact.

How? This requires you to remove your partisan blinders, and think logically without emotion.

Which media companies can afford to regularly create and distribute content that doesn’t make them a profit? Public companies’ shareholders won’t stand for running in the red.  Who can afford to do good things and yet be unprofitable? Think!

Companies that have somebody giving them money regardless of whether their bottom line is listed in red or black ink.

Who fits that bill today? PBS.

If you’re a conservative, you need to come to grips with this idea. Even when capitalism is firing on all engines, there is a place in our economy for companies that do not make a profit.

I know this is a painful idea, even shocking. But it’s high time we stopped falling for the bullshit rhetoric coming out of the neoconservative think tanks: not everything is a profit center. And that’s OK.

Some companies will never turn a profit. Sometimes, entire industries will not turn a profit. And yet, we need them.

And in this case, it’s not enough to say, “well, that’s what local cable access channels are for.” Local cable access channels do not have an impact on the national media culture. And last night I think we all agreed that celebrating Science Fair winners over (or alongside) Superbowl winners on a national scale is a worthy goal.

If you’re a conservative and you truly want a national media culture that supports local heros and local accomplishments in science, math, civics, etc., – if you truly want a media company that routinely produces stories about people doing good things –  then you must stop agitating to do away with PBS. Either stop it, or give me a viable alternative to PBS.

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