Privatizing TLC: From Intelligent Life To Honey Boo Boo

The Article: How the Privatization of NASA’s The Learning Channel devolved into a for-profit channel pushing Honey Boo Boo in Little Green Footballs.

The Text: Romney in the first debate with Obama and the GOP for years have called for PBS to be defunded for many reasons but they hate it’s left wing educational content and the fact its financed by the tax payer (so they claim, I think they hate it because it tilts leftwards).

But a public funded example of PBS like station being defunded and privatized existed before. What can we learn from that?

People forget or did not know that once upon a time The Learning Channel

was founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as an informative/instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of TV; it was distributed at no cost by NASA satellite. Then it was privatized in 1980 (See Reaganism) and was then named the Appalachian Community Service Network. In November 1980 this name was changed to “The Learning Channel”, which was subsequently shortened to “TLC.”

From then on we have a sad decline to the abomination of child and poverty exploitation of the TLC’s current hit freak show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”.

The channel back then mostly featured documentary content pertaining to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement and other information-based topics. Low ratings and low profits. Smarts don’t sell.

By the early 1990s, The Learning Channel was a sister channel to the Financial News Network (FNN) which owned 51 percent of the channel with Infotechnology Inc. After FNN went into bankruptcy in 1991, the Discovery Channel’s owners went into talks of buying The Learning Channel. An agreement was made with FNN and Infotech to buy their shares for million. The non-profit Appalachian Community Service Network owned 35 percent of the network, and was also bought out.

The Learning Channel continued to focus primarily on instructional and educational programming through much of the ’90s but began to air shows less focused on education and more themed towards popular consumption and mass marketing; these would be later expanded.

In 1998 the channel began to distance itself from its original name “The Learning Channel”, and instead began to advertise itself only as “TLC”.

So when Mitt Romney and the Republicans talk about how much better off PBS would be de-funded, remember what privatization did to TLC and how TLC went from NASA beaming information into student classrooms to the disgraceful programs it runs today (many of which exploit children).

I am not saying we should not be capitalists and should be against the for profit model – but we should wake up from the delusion that the private sector can do it better. In some cases, the private sector does it worse and is worse.

This will be the last I will write on the Honey Boo Boo topic. I needed to vent.


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