All the fuss over federal support for arts and culture is befitting an election year. First President Bush fired his chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts after GOP challenger Pat Buchanan threatened to make an issue out of "dirty art" in Southern primaries. Now the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports local public television and radio stations, is under attack.
The assault is the handiwork of conservative critics who want to eliminate funding for programs they dislike, such as National Public Radio's coverage last summer of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' Senate confirmation hearings, which included Anita Hill's charges of sexual harassment. Recently, the Buchanan campaign has taken to haranguing public television for a documentary about black homosexuals. Even the National Audubon Society has come in for a bashing for its televised special, "The New Range Wars," which angered Western ranchers.
Public television, whose most recognizable products include such programs as "Masterpiece Theater" and "Sesame Street," hardly seems a fruitful target for ideological attack. Yet CPB, like other federal agencies, depends on Congress for funds, and Republican critics are using the appropriation process to score partisan political points by beating up on programs they consider unworthy.