Just say “No” to WHRO

Published 9:53 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

With its latest request for a handout, Hampton Roads’ public television station has redefined the word chutzpah.

In a recent letter to the city’s Economic Development Authority, WHRO officials sought $5,000 to help with production of a new program, “Another View,” which is scheduled to begin airing in February.

As media outlets and other businesses across the nation close offices, lay off staff, shrink services and generally look for ways to protect their ability to weather the economic storm we’re in, public television seeks to force taxpayers to finance its new ventures.

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Imagine the Suffolk News-Herald approaching City Council to ask for money to help pay for a new crossword puzzle or a comic strip. Such a request would almost certainly be laughed out of City Hall.

Even WHRO, which is used to getting money from public agencies, isn’t seeking money for something so trivial. The station dressed its latest request in the guise of promoting “the positive things that are happening in the African-American community,” putting an automatic racial spin on any discussion that takes place regarding the funding.

The scheme puts agencies in an uncomfortable position. Pay the money and support a program that might help raise the level of minority viewership for the station known for Masterpiece Theatre and other programs of pallor. Or refuse and risk being labeled as bigoted.

The station has had some success, too, judging by the offer that the Norfolk EDA has made not just to contribute $5,000 toward the new program but to double that contribution if other EDAs chip in a like amount.

Suffolk’s EDA should refuse the request and force WHRO to raise money for the program with donations from the private sector, whether individual donors or the business community. The level of interest generated within those groups by the idea would be a good indicator of its likely success. And taxpayers wouldn’t be forced to pay for yet another public television program that is destined to turn into a soapbox for the left.