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Bill Moyers Re-Occupies Public TV, but not PBS

Bill Moyers returns to public television beginning this Friday in a new program, “Moyers & Company,” which bears all the hallmarks of his earlier work for PBS.

Except the show actually won’t be on PBS, but rather is being offered to stations via American Public Television. (You can find station and scheduling info here.)

MoyersMoyers’ show is thoughtful, sober and provocative. He tackles issues in rare and welcome depth, including an interview with two political scientists — Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, who authored the book “Winner-Take-All Politics” — that takes up most of the hour.

What it is not — and makes absolutely no pretense of being — is balanced, thus opening up public TV stations, yet again, to charges of liberal bias, and probably explains why PBS isn’t involved.

So be it.

There’s no doubt Moyers is a liberal, and it’s pretty clear where his heart –- bleeding, if you happen to disagree with him –- lies. His guests speak of a political system that has produced “a winner-take-all economy,” with “astonishing” gains for the richest of the rich.

The Bush tax cuts, says Pierson, were “written like a subprime mortgage,” further exacerbating a rift not so much between haves and have-nots as “have-it-alls vs. the rest of Americans.”

The last quarter of the show is devoted to the Occupy Wall Street movement, with a clearly sympathetic view toward its politics.

“Inequality matters,” Moyers says in his closing comments, promising to pursue the issue further in the next two broadcasts, including an interview with former Reagan economic guru David Stockman.

Public broadcasting is always going to be a ripe target for conservatives, who have sought to slash funding in recent years. Part of that has to do with a longstanding perception it represents a mouthpiece for the left, though there’s also a self-serving element in outlets like Fox News Channel railing against PBS and NPR, which provides the perfect foil (Government spending! Prius-driving wheat-germ eaters!) on multiple levels.

Personally, I’d welcome a dozen more shows of every political stripe — liberal, conservative, whatever — if the hosts followed Moyers’ template, pressing their case without name-calling, raising their voices or fabricating arguments. Even if you reject every word he says, it’s a valuable articulation of a certain point of view. As Moyers says on his website, “Our aim is dialogue, not diatribe.”

In short, it’s nice to have him back.

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