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Fifty-four years ago, as a young West Virginia gubernatorial aide, I stood in the East Room of the White House and watched President Lyndon Johnson sign the Public Broadcasting Act. That was not because of anything I had done. Both my former boss, Rep. Harley O. Staggers of Keyser, and my then-boss, Gov. Hulett Smith of Beckley, were recognized as champions for public television.

Since that day in Washington, hundreds of West Virginians have volunteered to strengthen this system for our schools, our kids, our enjoyment. You will recognize the names: Harry Brawley; Bos Johnson; Greg Van Camp; Beth Voorhees; Martha Wehrle; Larry Groce; Ann Brotherton; Ted Armbrecht; Andy Ridenour; Rita Ray; Tom Burger; Chuck Roberts; Don Perdue; Marilyn DiVita; and many, many more.

I’ve worked for three governors and served in the Legislature. I earned a degree in journalism from WVU, and have taught the subject. I didn’t come late to the party.

I salute Gov. Jim Justice for updating West Virginians on COVID-19 two or three times a week and using West Virginia Public Broadcasting to do it. But it should not be abused for political purposes. That’s not what it’s for.

COVID-19 has nothing to do with bashing President Joe Biden, the opposite party, the Legislature, “Amy Baby,” our state’s newspapers, etc. What does that have to do with our vaccination rate, I ask? Nothing.

We all should know that National Public Broadcasting has programming standards to follow, governors included.

They include “a commitment to fairness.”

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A promise “not to show political favoritism.”

“Accountability” (from the staff and board) on whatever is aired.

The Friends of Public Broadcasting are elected volunteers who help raise funds to keep it truly fair, without political favoritism, and to be accountable. It’s time for its members to step up, rather than wimp out, and call for this free air-time situation to be corrected. For help, contact the Federal Communications Commission.

Let’s not lose what we’ve built.

One knows things are out of hand when one of the new members of the board — appointed by the governor — says he doesn’t own a television, never watches television, but “knows” all the news on public broadcasting is biased and he wants to change that.

One reasonably questions the motive of that, and where it came from.

Jack Canfield, of Charleston, was press secretary for Govs. Smith, Rockefeller and Wise (acting) and is retired from his public/government relations business.

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