Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The liberal group Moveon.org has been sending out e-mails to warn that Republicans are back in control of the House and to ask recipients to sign a petition that states, "Congress must protect NPR and PBS and guarantee them permanent funding, free from political meddling."
Of course, the best way to guarantee no political meddling would be to eliminate some $500 million in federal funds allocated annually to these media's parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Also of course, the fact that Moveon.org wants to keep federal tax dollars pouring into the public broadcasting bucket should end any question as to whether NPR and PBS news programs lean left. They do.
Yet for all his deficit-reduction talk in the face of America's $14 trillion federal debt, President Obama wants to increase CPB's funding by $6 million in 2014.
Last year, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and GOP Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming -- co-chairmen of Obama's bipartisan commission on reducing the national debt -- showed more fortitude. They released their own debt-reduction plan to cut domestic spending by $100 billion. "The current CPB funding is the highest it has ever been," the Bowles-Simpson plan explained. Their plan: Eliminate all of it.
I think public broadcasting stations would be better off if they stopped sucking at the public teat. If viewers and listeners thought that they weren't already contributing by paying taxes, perhaps they would be more inclined to pony up during pledge drives.
And maybe public broadcasters would lose some of their irritating sense of entitlement. Consider their new website, 170millionAmericans.org -- a name that is supposed to represent the NPR and PBS base. If public stations had that kind of support, they wouldn't need to claim they had that kind of support.
Then there's the question of whether taxpayers should be paying for more radio and television. As Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., wrote in a congressional newspaper, The Hill, "What I oppose is subsidizing an organization that no longer provides, if it ever did, an essential government service. When the federal government is now borrowing more than 40 cents of every $1 it spends, no one can justify paying for services that are widely available in the private market."
The bias issue won't go away. In October, NPR fired Senior News Analyst Juan Williams after he said on Fox News that he got "nervous" when he saw people dressed in Muslim garb on a plane.
NPR CEO Vivian Schiller denied that the firing had anything to do with the fact that one of NPR's own appeared regularly on the conservative cable network. In light of snide personal remarks for which Schiller later apologized, few believed her.
The 170 Million Americans site extols public broadcasting, thus: "The free flow of ideas and debate helps us participate in the political process as informed citizens." Problem: A free flow of ideas doesn't run in one direction; it flows both ways. But I don't think NPR swells understand that.
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See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders
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