Public broadcasting became a trending topic during and after Wednesday night’s presidential debate, as GOP nominee Mitt Romney repeated his pledge to defund PBS and the NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer was roundly criticized for his performace as debate moderator.
When three unlikely partners — a conservative newspaper in the nation’s capital, a blue-state Republican organization and a public broadcasting station in a quirky, liberal city — set out last fall to change the tenor of GOP primary debates.
Nebraska ETV canceled a senatorial debate broadcast in August , and Iowa PTV was taken to court last month as the ripple effects of a federal circuit court decision involving Arkansas ETV spread throughout the Midwest’s Eighth Circuit. As it did in 1994, the circuit court had ruled on Aug. 21,  that the Arkansas network had no right to exclude independent congressional candidate Ralph P. Forbes from a Republican-Democrat debate that it was sponsoring and broadcasting in 1992. Richard D. Marks, attorney for the Arkansas, Iowa and Nebraska networks, called the decision “a grave threat to public broadcasting.” In the parallel case in Iowa, pubcasters were elated with two rulings last week: first, a U.S. District Court said Oct.