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Off-base Billy - Broadcasting & Cable

Off-base Billy

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Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin sounds like he's angling for a programming job at PBS. That might be OK if he didn't want to do it while still a member of Congress.

Tauzin wrote PBS' president saying the service should be looking for something in a conservative vein to replace the right-leaning National Desk segments axed from PBS' lineup. Tauzin will beat the First Amendment drum as loudly as anyone, and in a number of cases we'll join in. So it comes as a surprise that he would put pressure on a programmer to carry a particular type of show. The congressman may have simply been expressing a general preference, but no matter how softly he speaks, the office he holds is a big stick that cannot fail to impress.

Not that the government is reluctant to micromanage programming to serve a particular agenda: One need look no further than the script reviews in exchange for PSA dollars in which the Clinton administration and several programmers were involved. But regulators, legislators and administrators should all be reluctant to do so, and must resist the urge to put their thumbs on the scale.

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