Politicians are nothing if not creative and what they’re most creative about is making themselves look good. With the ‘Great Recession’ roaring along some politicians in state government decided paying UNC-TV to run programs to tell voters what a great job they’re doing spending money was a first rate idea.
You’d think the state’s ‘Golden Leaf Foundation,’ which Marc Basnight, Mike Easley and Company set up to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco settlement money (and fund Democratic legislators’ favorite pork-barrel projects), would be happy to just go on doing good deeds. But, not so. The ‘Foundation’ felt the need to pay UNC-TV $300,000 to tell everyone about its good deeds.
And it worked. Public TV took the cash and ran glowing reports about the politicians without mentioning it was, in effect, paid for them.
I guess on UNC TV’s side of the table the logic is simple: They got the cash. The politicians got the ads. Everyone was content. Which makes common sense. But imagine the uproar if, say, Exxon paid CBS to run glowing news reports about its environmental record.
When the whole thing landed in the News and Observer UNC-TV went into defense mode, firing back it’s doing its job as “an information provider.” Anyone want to bet when UNC-TV will be airing negative information about the ‘Golden Leaf Foundation?’
In the past couple of years the politicians got their tentacles into NCSU (in the form of former Governor Easley’s wife’s $850,000 job as a ‘professor’) – until UNC President Erskine Bowles stepped in to put an end to that bit of ‘pay to play.’ Everyone from the Governor to the Attorney General has used government money to pay for TV ads on everything from the ACC Tournament to the Home and Garden Channel to make themselves look good. And now they’ve got their mitts into public television.