Radio Theater

An all-star gallery of Republican politicians say they want to defund National Public Radio. We've heard that line before.

Get ready to suspend your disbelief. One of the most resilient acts in theatrical history is returning to the D.C. stage: the We're Going To Defund Public Broadcasting show.

Every time this play gets revived, the director alters the story slightly to reflect recent events. This time the performers are riffing on National Public Radio's decision to fire Juan Williams after he said he gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb on a plane. John Boehner, who might be the country's next speaker of the House, has told National Review "it's reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers' money to support a left-wing radio network—and in the wake of Juan Williams' firing, it's clearer than ever that's what NPR is." Newt Gingrich, who's having one of his periodic flirtations with a presidential run, announced on Fox that "Congress should investigate NPR and consider cutting off its money." The conservative direct-mail king Richard Viguerie has launched a petition to defund the network, accusing the suits who dismissed Williams of "censorship of ideas not in conformity with the ruling class elites."

It's a snappier setup than the one Richard Nixon used in 1971, when he was upset about the political programming on public TV and proposed a "return to localism" that would have kneecapped the crowd in charge of the system. On the other hand, it doesn't have the cloak-and-dagger spirit that the State Department flunky Otto Reich brought to the play in 1985, right after Ronald Reagan's reelection, when he met with NPR staffers in a smoky little room and warned them that the White House thought they were "Moscow on the Potomac."* Nor is it as colorful as the 1993 spectacle starring Bob Dole and David Horowitz, who attacked the radical Pacifica network rather than NPR, allowing them to quote a much weirder series of statements than anything in the Juan Williams kerfuffle. ("We didn't have Satan before the white man. So the white man is Satan himself.") And the specific focus on NPR means the stakes don't feel as high as they did in 1994 when Speaker-elect Gingrich started skylarking that he might "zero out" the entire public broadcasting budget, let alone that moment 10 years later when a House subcommittee actually voted to eliminate federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That element of danger was a nice suspenseful touch. You could almost forget it was all an act.

Because an act is precisely what this is. The Williams story will be stale by the time the new Congress is in a position to do anything about it, making it less likely that there will be a big push to add anti-NPR conditions to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's next check. Now, if Republican leaders want to keep the issue alive between now and then, I'm sure it won't be hard to keep finding stuff on public radio that offends rank-and-file conservatives. But even then, there's a difference between wanting to keep the issue alive and actually intending to end the network's subsidies. These standoffs never end with public broadcasting getting defunded. The point of the exercise isn't to cut NPR loose; it's to use the threat of cutting NPR loose to whip the network into line.

After Nixon made his threats, the system was still standing but all but one of the programs he found objectionable left the air. After the Gingrich-era battle ended, Fred Barnes, Peggy Noonan, and Ben Wattenberg all found themselves with new gigs at PBS—and following an initial cut, the CPB's budget crept back upward. The funding fight five years ago took place against the backdrop of a conservative appointee atop the CPB crusading for a more right-friendly PBS and NPR. Now the Republicans are getting ready to retake the House and possibly the Senate. With the Juan Williams spat, the party has found a familiar way to flex its muscles.

Every time this happens, I fantasize that this time, just maybe, the broadcasters won't blink. NPR can certainly survive without the subsidies. It gets very little direct money from the CPB—less than 2 percent of its budget. In practice, to be sure, it depends on the government far more than that: About 40 percent of its money comes from its member stations, which usually receive their own federal subsidies and are frequently affiliated with publicly funded universities. Still, the network has been picking up other sources of support, just this month receiving a $1.8 million grant from George Soros' Open Society Foundations—already more than half the amount it got directly this year from the feds. As for the affiliates, nothing quite boosts a public radio station's pledge week like the possibility that those Republican meanies might pump CS gas into the Morning Edition compound and set the place on fire.

More importantly, a number of plans have been floating around since the 1990s that would transmute the CPB from a de facto arm of the government into an independent trust with a private endowment. One effect of this would be to prevent anyone offended by NPR's personnel decisions from being required to give the place any more support. Another would be to shield public broadcasters from any politician attempting to stick his snout into their editorial choices. The idea has thus attracted support from both sides of the conventional political spectrum, with free-market economists endorsing the concept and with left-wing documentarians boosting it via groups such as Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting. And so I imagine a new ending for this recurring show, one where public broadcasters and their critics decide to call each other's bluff and the whole rotten system comes tumbling down.

But that's a pipe dream, not a prediction. Way back in 1995, one press report in the aftermath of the broadcasters' budget battle declared that "all the groups agreed on the need to establish an independent trust fund that eventually could replace federal funding," citing a CPB spokesman as its source. Fat chance: Fifteen years later, that independence is still little more than a fantasy. The voters may elect some Tea Party backbenchers next month who really are serious about cutting off Nina Totenberg's allowance, but those legislators will have a hard enough time persuading their own party to pull the plug, let alone the Democrats running the White House and possibly the Senate. The establishment Republicans know how this script ends, and it doesn't wrap up with a great big cut. As Ben Wattenberg is alleged to have said when he heard the Gingrich Congress was thinking of defunding PBS: "What! Just when we've taken it over?"

Managing Editor Jesse Walker is the author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (NYU Press).

* This originally stated that the meeting with Otto Reich took place after Reagan's initial election, not his reelection.

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  • Shit.||

    Establishment Republicans (especially the idiotic Newt Gingrich), just shut your fucking pie-holes. This incident will play out just fine by itself.

  • Antishit||

    The funds should have been cut off decades ago. You got your name right!

  • Geotpf||

    They have been. NPR gets zero direct federal funds and minimal indirect funding.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Still too much. One literal thin dime going to NPR or PBS would also still be too much.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    And what about the government protection they get as a "public interest"? That alone is the same thing to me as billions of dollars of subsidies.

  • Shit.||

    Once they start their "Look at me, I'm for you show", the focus goes off the issue and on to them. That's all I'm sayin'. Let this thing fester in the news for a while.

  • ||

    Newt Gingrich? Nah, hell no. It's Newcular Titties.

  • ||

    Is that official yet? Good for Gingrich--great PR move.

  • ||

    Caption Contest!

    "I'm smiling because I made a comment and now I'm getting 2 million to keep making comments. Only in America!"

  • hmm||

    "Derp da durp. Teef. Derp"

  • Monk||

    Fuck this shit. This is the stupidest thing I have seen in a while - it's a fucking non-issue.

    Fuck all you people.

  • ||

    As long as NPR takes tax money, who they hire and don't hire is everyone's business. Go concern troll somewhere else.

  • Tony||

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business. Can the rest of it be the business of those people who fund the rest of NPR? You know, like its mostly liberal audience?

    You drive on roads that taxpayers pay for. Does that mean I get to tell you how you are allowed to raise your children?

  • ||

    "roads"

    DRINK!

  • ||

    Hitler liked government roads.

    ....


    ...and yes i am looking to ruin Moynahan's day.

  • ||

    It is everyone's business Tony. If you don't like it, stop sucking the government's tit and start your own network.

    You already have MSNBC where it is acceptable to slander people as being an accessory to murder. If NPR wants to live by MSNBC's standards, then they need to pay their own way. And if it is that small amount of money, then they won't miss it much either. Just think, for a 3% cut in budget, no one will ever be able to say anything about it again. And then NPR can slander people with impunity and run as oppressive a newsroom as they like. And people like you can listen every day and get dumber. Everyone wins.

  • Fluffy||

    To be fair, Fox played host many, many times to authors and commentators who accused both Clintons of different murders.

  • martin||

    You must recognize the difference between a corporation, and a (partially) puclicly funded corporation.

  • ||

    Good for them. They don't take my tax money. So all I can say is "it is a free country".

  • The Mossy Spaniard||

    It is?

  • ||

    I thought they did murder lots of people. They didn't?

  • Fox ||

    Maybe the Clintons shouldn't have killed those people, ever think about that?

  • alan||

    I beg to differ. Obama is the first president since Carter to not have the stain of blood on his hands before reaching the high office, and that is why he is weak. Those people Clinton killed were a sacrifice to the Greater Good of the Nation.

  • matt||

    And the Clintons (or their surrogates) ordered scores of murders in Waco, Texas.

    I think the Whitewater stuff is stupid, or at least questionable, but there's no honest way of arguing that they didn't have blood on their hands.

  • Tony||

    I believe this is an example of NPR's standards being quite strict.

    BTW, did you know that NPR listeners and PBS viewers were the most informed news consumers in the country?

    Guess who are the least informed!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    BTW, did you know that NPR listeners and PBS viewers were the most informed news consumers in the country?

    Yes, PBS and NPR reported that fact not very long ago . . .

  • ||

    Informed by who? Whom??

  • Tony||

    Facts.

  • hmm||

    Tony|10.22.10 @ 12:56PM|#

    Facts are a tricky thing.

    Fixed that for ya.

  • Zeb||

    I listen to a lot of NPR, and so do a lot of other libertarians on here, it seems. So you may be right. But so what?

  • Tony||

    So apparently government funded news outfits are BETTER AT THEIR JOB than private alternatives.

    Oh and John is a Republicunt,

  • hmm||

    Ahh, the joys of defining things like "informed."

  • ||

    So apparently government funded news outfits are BETTER AT THEIR JOB than private alternatives.

    So just 3% government funding makes it better than private alternatives? Amazing!

  • ||

    "Most informed" means most indoctrination.

    So, it's no badge of honor to include yourself as among the most indoctrinated Americans by being an NPR listener and PBS viewer.

    Everyone knows that Americans with the highest intellects are Reason.com, Reason.TV and Reason Magazine readers.

  • ||

    BTW, did you know that NPR listeners and PBS viewers were the most informed news consumers in the country?

    Tony i consume NPR everyday and when i had a TV i would consume PBS everyday.

    As one of the "MOST INFORMED" i can tell you with authority that NPR and PBS are filled with left wing hacks. Their reporting is biased and their need for public funding is complete bullshit. Also the only reason why you defend NPR's and PBS's funding is that you are also a hack and are afraid that without public funding they will either go out of business or be forced to enter a market that punishes them for their left wing hackery.

  • Let Me Guess||

    Reason commentors using the pseudonym "Tony"? The one that always makes the "why we hate them" comments.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Good God, that post is just dripping with elitist gravy.

  • Tony||

    How dare you use that word.

  • ||

    I believe this is an example of NPR's standards being quite strict.

    Yeah, so strict they have someone who wished a Senator and his grandkids would get AIDS serving as their their legal affairs correspondant

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....r_embedded

    BTW, did you know that NPR listeners and PBS viewers were the most informed news consumers in the country?

    Guess who are the least informed!

    Actually, I know the study you're referring to, Tony. It was specific to the Iraq War and all of the wrong answers inaccurately favored the conservative postion. There were no questions in the survey that a wrong answer would favor the anti-war position. Regardless of what I think about Iraq, the study was a steaming turd that I'm too much of a genetlemen to leave lit on your doorstep. At best, it shows Fox viewers are more likely to err on the side of the right.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business. Can the rest of it be the business of those people who fund the rest of NPR?

    How about not having that 1-3% of stolen money and NPR can do whatever they damned want?

    You drive on roads that taxpayers pay for. Does that mean I get to tell you how you are allowed to raise your children?

    It's already being done [not by you obvioulsy, but by Madame Obama], so what's your point?

  • JoshINHB||

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business.

    Then, they won't miss federal funds at all since it's such a small part of their funding.

    You tell us all the time that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts Obama tax increases are such a small percentage that the rich won't even notice. Well 3% is even a smaller percentage.

    Can the rest of it be the business of those people who fund the rest of NPR? You know, like its mostly liberal audience?

    Like Soros?

    Sure, just kick in your own money.

  • ||

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business.

    Huh?

    The poeple pay a shit load more then 1-3% of the government funding of NPR.

    Last I checked we pay for about 50% of the programing the rest come from donations and advertising.

    I pay like .03% of my income for candy bars....by your calculation I should only have a .03% say in which candy bar i choose to buy.

    Can we chalk this up as moon bat math?

  • DLM||

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business.

    If the Feds are funding only 1-3% of NPR now, why fund it at all?

  • ||

    Exactly. Why should they be worried about losing only 3% if it would gain them the freedom to make decisions like big boys? We know the answer: They secretly are still living with mommy and daddy.

  • ||

    Because the 1-3% number is a scam. The 1-3% number comprises direct funding. The bulk of their funding comes from member stations. The member stations, in turn, receive their money from...the government. But it gives douches like Tony cover to claim that NPR isn't predominantly funded by the government.

  • slutmonkey||

    1-3% ?

    I guess you missed the part where 40% of their funding comes from member stations who are heavily funded through federal subsidies and in turn are often funded by federally subsidized universities.

    Just because the funding isn't direct, doesn't mean it's not there.

    But the percentage of it which is "our business" is really irrelevant because propaganda ...er... I meant... media and commentary on either side of the argument should not be a government function to begin with.

  • Robert||

    A lot of their programming is grant funded too, and a lot of the grant money is tax funded. Plus, their member stations mostly were allowed licenses in the educational FM band, 88-92 MHz.

    Member stations are mostly owned & operated by local boards of education, state universities, some county educational authorities, and in a few cases municipalities or states directly.

    NPR does, however, have a competitor that gets no direct federal funding: Public Radio International, formerly American Public Radio...which, however, was an offshoot of Minnesota Public Radio.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "You drive on roads that taxpayers pay for. Does that mean I get to tell you how you are allowed to raise your children?"

    We have a president and his wife willing to take on the latter - and far too many Republicans willing to be The National Parents, as well.

    But apparently, Tony, you're okay with that.

  • Paul||

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business.

    I don't really care about this business much one way or the other, but this one always gets me. This is where the argument to fund NPR essentially begins to make no sense:

    1. Pff, it's a mere drop in the NPR budget bucket. Only like 1 or 2 percent!
    2. OMG You CAN'T CUT THE FUNDING, IT'LL BE THE END OF NPR AS WE KNOW IT!!!

    If it's such a miniscule amount, why don't we just cut it and end the whole controversy altogether?

  • Tony||

    And give the Republicunts a win? Fuck that. They can burn in hell.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It's a shame you don't take the logical step of denying Democunts a win as well, Tony.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Can the rest of it be the business of those people who fund the rest of NPR? You know, like its mostly liberal audience the "Car Talk" audience?

    Wait, wait, don't tell me, Car Talk is an intellectually stimulating program, which provides truth in the news.

  • txgypsy||

    no, my chl'run have nothing to do with roads, but becuase of hiway funding,"you" can tell me what type of car i can drive, along with how i drive it...

  • ||

    Tony,

    I'm not the first here to point this out, but on the amount of tax $ argument, supporters of NPR can't have it both ways. If it's such a small amount of money, then what's the big deal about cutting it?

    The argument against NPR I wish were out there more is not about Juan W, that it's left-of-center, or whatever. It's that government should not be in the business of reporting on itself. Why do we mock Pravda, People's Daily, etc? Because we know they are government mouthpieces. Now NPR is NOT in reality a government mouthpiece. The fact they get corporate $ is certainly a reason. I happen to LOVE NPR and have about 10 podcasts on my iphone. But at the same time believe--in the long run--that NPR will be better off without that 2% funding for the same reason it would be a bad idea for the federal government to start a newspaper--conflict of interests. I mean even if you are on the left, wouldn't you rather have an NPR that doesn't have to be whip-lashed in the court of public opinion every time it makes a controversial decision? What do you think, Tony, about making NPR truly independent once and for all?

    John

  • ||

    What do you mean? And extra words because this is not S P A M.

  • Cheech||

    Yeah, let's talk about fucking pot man!

  • DLM||

    Fuck this shit. This is the stupidest thing I have seen in a while - it's a fucking non-issue.

    Do you work for NPR by chance?

  • Yawn||

    Endless sub-threads are boring.

    Tired. So tired.

  • Hoover||

    You must understand Yawn that we are ghost. You died in a fire many years ago. Go to the light. Go to the light.

  • ||

    I will believe they are going to cut off NPR when they cut off the fucking NEA. Republicans love giving tax money to leftists. It is sort of a sadomasochistic thing for them I think. At least Washington Republicans, really love giving money to leftists in hopes that the leftists will think they are not like the rest of the Yahoos in the Republican Party.

  • ||

    At least Washington Republicans, really love giving money to leftists in hopes that the leftists will think they are not like the rest of the Yahoos in the Republican Party.

    And they've never figured out that it doesn't work.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    It works when said Republicans die or otherwise are judged no longer to be a political threat.

    Reagan used to be a right-wing lunatic. Now that he's dead, he's far more reasonable than the current GOP crop.

    Look for George W. Bush to be judged by the left to be a reasonable, centrist Republican sometime around 2035.

  • ||

    Look for George W. Bush to be judged by the left to be a reasonable, centrist Republican sometime around 2035.

    By 2035 Bush will be praised as a hero of the left.

    Massive government spending, massive government regulations, massive military spending on wars of transformation.

    Watch. He will be loved.

  • cynical||

    Sure, just like they love Hoover. Ha.

  • Hoover||

    But I knew what I was getting into. They told me, 'you know, we are going to have to drag your name through the mud, connect it to the one thing you truly hate and have fought against all of your professional career, laissez-faire, in order to sell this narrative.'

    I looked those Democratic Party operatives in the eye, and I told them,

    "I understand. Now, go out there and manage that economy!"

  • ||

    Sure, just like they love Hoover. Ha.

    Hoover is only hated by the left because he did not get us into a war of world wide scope and preceded a president that did.

    Obama unlike FDR does not have that luxury.

    Bush will be loved.

  • ||

    Joshua,

    You mentioned that Hoover was hated by the left "only" because of the preceding war. No matter what president is in office there's always exceptions that prevent any constituent from accepting them.

    This is the case with Bush Jr. in the future. He will not be loved, but rather pitied as an unrealistic, yet idealistic "Woodrow Wilson." Of course, in 2035, you can always come back with "Yeah, but he's only hated because [insert exception/apology here]."

    Reagan always touted "Get big government off our backs." Yet, he was pro-government as any politician before him. The government didn't get smaller under his reign. Yet, do the left "love" him? I think not. Especially after we learn more about his fiscal policies and how they fostered in a new way of speculation and overvaluation of fiat currencies.

    "Massive government spending, massive government regulations, massive military spending on wars of transformation."

  • Fluffy||

    I think the real problem is that although the two programs together come in below $1 billion, the fanatical attachment the left has to them is basically equal to their attachment to social security.

    If I went to Washington on a budget-cutting mission, I wouldn't even touch these programs. I might even give them 100% funding increases. Because in political terms the amount of energy it would take to get them cut is wasted relative to the return.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    And that's why the budget will never get cut. $1 trillion is made up of one trillion one-dollar bills, each of which is vitally important to someone whose life will be made worse if you take that dollar away. And the left and the press have no trouble finding the most telegenic moppets (or in the case of public television, Muppets) to put forth as innocent victims of budget cuts.

    The only hope for budget cutting is O'Rourke's Circumcision Principle, applied across the board to every item in the budge every year, cumulatively, until the debt is gone.

  • Virginia||

    I seriously think the problem is that lovers-of-public-money-for-NPR have no clue how little it represents of their budget. Just spin the rest private and we'll STFU already.

  • ||

    yeah, it would take a lot to cut them. But if you cut them, you could cut anything. I think the left is so fanatically wed to them because they know if the precedent of eliminating them is ever set, a lot of other things will get a whole lot easier to eliminate.

    I would go after them. Sometimes symbolic value is real value.

  • ||

    The problem is what exactly do you cut? Pretty much every brass farthing the government spends is pretty much appreciated by SOMEBODY. Here's one that, honestly, it isn't that hard to attack. The public isn't terribly wild about the idea of subsidizing the Volvo-driving Brie-and-chabis set anyway.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Cut everything. Eliminate what we do not need, and cut the rest.

  • Wind Rider||

    Maybe someone just needs to put it in terms the Repubs can relate to. Something like "just cause you paid that stipper, did it really make her actually like you?"

    Same sort of delusion at work here.

  • DLM||

    Republicans love giving tax money to leftists.

    Republicans are very skittish when it comes to anything substantial and actually *doing* something to back up their rhetoric.

  • Old Mexican||

    One of the most resilient acts in theatrical history is returning to the D.C. stage: the We're Going To Defund Public Broadcasting show.

    They didn't do it when they had full control of the House, Senate and Executive...

    Republirats are NOT concerned about small government. They are only concerned about Republirat government.

    By the way, ANYBODY who takes money that was taken under threat of violence is a damned thief, including the spineless thiefs at NPR.

  • Shit.||

    More spineless still when they use that money and forum to deride political enemies.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    How bout driving on roads?

    I think once money is stolen, you are stupid to not take it if the Don wants to give it to you. You might have to kiss his ring first, but you aren't a thief.

    Concentrate your fire on the actual stealing, I say.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: CkrackertyAssCraker,

    How bout driving on roads?

    What about it?

    I think once money is stolen, you are stupid to not take it if the Don wants to give it to you.

    There's a difference between "taking" and "making you take it." NPR TAKES IT, WILLINGLY.

    You might have to kiss his ring first, but you aren't a thief.

    Yes, you are.

    Concentrate your fire on the actual stealing, I say.

    I am - NPR's.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    The roads are paid for with stolen money. Why is driving on them different than accepting money directly from the Don?

    NPR doesn't seize your assets or put you in jail if you don't pay taxes. They aren't doing the stealing.

    Is the guy who cuts the grass at the white house a thief?

  • ||

    No, but that fucking beekeeper is.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: CrackaertyAssCraker,

    The roads are paid for with stolen money. Why is driving on them different than accepting money directly from the Don?

    You answered your own question. "Accepting" is not the same as "having it imposed on you," like the roads. The roads are already there; the LOOT that NPR receives is constant and they receive it very voluntarily, as in "with thieving glee."

    NPR doesn't seize your assets or put you in jail if you don't pay taxes. They aren't doing the stealing.

    Neither did the guy that bought the 52" Plasma TV out of some guy's car trunk. . . right?

    Is the guy who cuts the grass at the white house a thief?

    And so is the guy SITTING in the White House.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    So everyone who draws a public salary is a damned thief?

    I'll be sure to tell Eugene Volokh.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Masturbatin' Pete,

    So everyone who draws a public salary is a damned thief?

    Yes.

    Next question?

  • J sub D||

    You right wingers want to kill Sesame Street.

  • ||

    Nah. Just want that fucking Big Bird to sell a fucking ad.

  • ||

    Obviously nuthin but a fowl homosexual anyway. Sell a condom ad fer chrissakes.

  • Cyto||

    Sesame Street is a huge money-maker. Definitely selling a few fucking ads. Enough to fund Sesame Street clones in just about every country around the world.

  • DLM||

    Sesame Street is a huge money-maker.

    There's a big Sesame Street area at Seaworld here in San Diego. I guarantee you they aren't allowing this to go on for free.

  • kinnath||

    Do you think McD's or Burger King would win the bidding war?

  • Brett L||

    We'd all win when Bloomberg's and his type's heads exploded.

  • ||

    Do you think McD's or Burger King would win the bidding war?

    Fisher-Price already won that contract.

  • ||

    And if I recall correctly, they bought it for a song and a dance from CTW after the show was already a resounding success. A somewhat similar situation happened with A&E's acquisition of the Sherlock Holmes series. Public television has been notoriously bad at revenue capture.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: J sub D,

    You right wingers want to kill Sesame Street.

    We did it with Villa Alegre - for the betterment of this world.

  • ||

    Hahaha!!! Man, that brings back some bad memories. You from SA?

  • x,y||

    The point of the exercise isn't to cut NPR loose; it's to use the threat of cutting NPR loose to whip the network into line.

    And raise $$$ and energize the base.

  • ||

    The idea, of course, is to trick libertarians and small-government independents into believing that if they vote Republican, this time we'll get smaller government. Fuck, if that ever really happened I'd start praying because obviously apocalypse is imminent.

  • ¢||

    NPR can certainly survive without the subsidies.

    Of course. And they always say that.

    But they never stop rakin' dat scrill, because the point—or at least the pleasure—of public broadcasting is stealing people's money and using it to hurt them.

    If it weren't, lefties wouldn't support it.

  • ||

    Every time I hear about anything being defunded, I always remember the attempts to merge the INS and Customs Department going back to Nixon--for 30 years, every President from Nixon on tried to merge those two agencies.

    It wasn't until one of them issued visas to the 9/11 hijackers--months after 9/11--that someone was finally able to force that merger.

    "Another would be to shield public broadcasters from any politician attempting to stick his snout into their editorial choices."

    Indeed, why would a politician vote to limit his own influence?

  • DLM||

    It wasn't until one of them issued visas to the 9/11 hijackers--months after 9/11--that someone was finally able to force that merger.

    That's what I hate about government 'programs'. They are like the living dead monstrosity. Once created, you can't kill them. (Maybe with a bullet to the head.) They can only morph into something else. There is no such thing as 'temporary' for these things. I tend to vote Republican because it's much less likely we'll get another new program.

  • ||

    The repubs are not going to defund the NPR any time soon as they are not as sneaky as the dems. The dems like to play chess with congress. They would move to isolate the PBS/NPR leadership and to paint them in the media badly. This would result in an easier target. After that, they would add lethal poison pill language into a postal authorization bill or a bill refunding the air force. It has to pass, and get signed. For all the PBS/NPR fans that would scream, it would be pointless to object, as it would pass and they would go.

    The NEA needs to be retasked. It should be like the NIH and fund research in art (like maintaining art history of native arts in America), and the funding of museums and performance artists should be left to people who wish to spend their own money on such things.

    PBS should go away as it is no longer needed. Just as we no longer need buggy regulations, we no longer need PBS for kids programming.

    NPR should go away. Over the time it has been around, it has clearly demonstrated a political bias that has marginalized it amongst those who don't share the views, and has been unable to compete in the marketplace of ideas due to that and the vast number of similarly liberal news outlets. No sense betting on a loser.

  • ||

    [The repubs are not going to defund the NPR any time soon..]

    Maybe, maybe not. Lots of new
    renegades will be taking oaths of
    office come January.

    [PBS should go away as it is no longer needed..we no longer need PBS for kids programming..]

    And it was needed precisely..when?
    What did you have against Soupy
    Sales??

  • ||

    "It gets very little direct money from the CPB—less than 2 percent of its budget. In practice, to be sure, it depends on the government far more than that..."

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Walker, but don't they get a tremendous amount of free spectrum?

    How many hundreds of millions of dollars would all that spectrum go for--free spectrum in every market in the country--if it were auctioned off and the proceeds went to the taxpayers?

    I think it highly unlikely that NPR could cover its costs under its present model if it had to cover the cost of its spectrum.

  • Jesse Walker||

    NPR affiliates have "free spectrum" in the same sense that commercial broadcasters have "free spectrum" -- they don't formally lease it from the government. But they still face the costs of meeting the regulatory requirements to use that spectrum, just like every other broadcast licensee. (Though those may cost less for noncommercial stations -- I don't know off hand.)

    More to the point, NPR doesn't own those licenses; the affiliates do. So this falls under the heading of indirect costs, not direct.

  • FergieJenkins||

    Just to clarify: you cannot speak of "de-funding" NPR without factoring in the member stations, who do enjoy a tremendous advantage over their commercial competitors, while competing directly with those commercial competitors for both "sponsorship" (ad) dollars and listenership. Most, not all, NPR member stations are licensed to state-supported educational institutions. Those member station's employees then become employees of the state/educational institution, subject to the same benefits, COLAS, etc., irrespective of the station's performance in either fund-raising or listenership.

    For example, if an NPR-member station needs to replace a transmitter or other aspect of their signal's technical chain do they hold an on-air fund-raiser? Sure. If that fund-raiser doesn't meet their expectations do they continue to broadcast with an impaired technical chain? No, the 'licensee' ponies up the dollars to remain compliant with FCC regulations. In most cases (again, not all) the state-supported institution provides the money. Or put another way, the taxpayers of that state.

    Been there, done that. Speak from personal experience.

  • Jesse Walker||

    All this is true, and some of it is discussed in the article. I'm just responding to Ken's question, which conflated NPR with its member stations. If NPR uses public radio's decentralized structure to pretend it doesn't depend on the government as much as it really does, its critics sometimes fall into the trap of forgetting that the national network and the stations that run its programs are separate (though interdependent) entities.

  • ||

    Mr. Walker, I appreciate the response. I really did want to understand that better. ...and it's interesting to note that the spectrum isn't held by NPR; it's held by the local stations.

    However, I was able to wiki the following...

    "Licensing is also different for public radio and public television, and for community radio and community television, as compared to commercial applicants and licensees."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcast_license

    It is unclear to me how different that is.

    I know that radio stations have been bought and sold in the last decade for hundreds of millions of dollars--not becasue the equipment was worth that, just to get the commercial license.

    It still seems unlikely to me that NPR content, as it's presently delivered, could generate the revenue to cover the cost of commercial spectrum that various media outlets pay.

    I'm still not sure what the difference in licensing costs are between licensing fees for commercial stations and licensing fees for public stations, but it would be interesting to see how big of a difference that is.

    Because regardless of whether it's the local stations paying the fees, if NPR content (supported by minimal commercials and donations) is insufficient to cover commercial licensing fees (or buy a station that has spectrum), then NPR is being heavily subsidized by taxpayers by the cost of lost spectrum revenue at the very least.

    At the very least, the taxpayers are making NPR content possible by subsidizing local stations for the difference between the spectrum fees they'd pay as a commercial station versus what they're paying now.

    If the difference is insignificant, well that's another matter entirely...

    But what are the chances of that?

    Why wouldn't NPR's competitors in the news and culture sector go relatively commercial free if they could?

  • Robert||

    The license fees are fairly trivial. Stations carrying NPR programming in the great majority of cases occupy the portion of the FM band reserved for educational and religious stations (88-92 MHz). I don't know if NPR's charter prohibits it from distributing programs to stations with commercial licenses (which in almost all cases are commercial stations), but I can't recall ever hearing their programs on one.

    These days non-commercial licensees are understood to be allowed to sell what amount to commercial announcements, except that the ads can't incorporate a call to action or a profession of quality (in the sense of goodness or badness) of whatever's being advertised. I know that because a few years ago I bought a product placement on WFMU's "7 Second Delay" for my non-irritating lather bath (see link) that was "nonchalantly snuck in" among others on the same show by Andy Breckman. Co-host Ken Freedman said it was the last time they would ever do that -- and then a few months ago they did it again.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I think initial spectrum privitazion should be done along more of a homesteading model.

  • ||

    I gave voluntarily to NPR for several years, along with the money they took using the government gun. Then when the GOP talked about eliminating the budget for CPB in 1995 the national and local hosts became incensed and began name calling and other grade school whining. At that point my pledging stopped. I can understand NPR not turning down government money if they could get it, but they clearly were more interested in protecting their gov money than in having a rational conversation about it.

    I have to say I have derived a great deal of pleasure when called by the local NPR station to see why I no longer support them. I tell them I will happily resume supporting them voluntarily when they stop taking money from me by force via government funds. And I agree with Jesse Walker, that will never happen.

  • ||

    Okay, it can be 1–3% everyone's business. Can the rest of it be the business of those people who fund the rest of NPR?

    Only if the 0.05% of my company's business that is funded by federal grants is subject to the incredibly onerous regulations that are piggybacked onto those grants.

    You take the King's shilling, you do the King's bidding. . . .

  • Old Mexican||

    +1

  • ||

    R C Dean,

    If you are posting less because of threaded comments please give up the goose. Your comments are worth more to the universe then some lame nostalgia of Hit and Run's past.

  • ||

    If only 2 percent of NPR's budget comes from the Federal Government, then pretty clearly they can make up that 2 percent elsewhere. That seems a reasonable reason to zero out their funding. Throwing a hissyfit because they fired Juan Williams does not.

  • alan||

    I would like to see some Muslim organizations come out in support of Juan Williams with a statement that says 1) stop treating us like crybabies that need to be coddled, only post modernist Islamic terrorist and their dispossessed cultural enablers expect it; we are almost wholly modernist not decadents in temperament and outlook, 2) stop using us as an excuse for fulfilling your own personal and petty vendettas like the cowardly overlords of NPR.

  • alan||

    Oops, wrong thread.

  • ||

    Better still to see Nina Totenberg on a YouTube hostage tape, replete with AK-47 toting, saber wielding ragheads sawing at her neck.

  • alan||

    Funny, I could see getting all Pinochet on the lefty dudes at the point it is imperative to do so for the purpose of personal survival, but my credo pretty much means leaving the women alone no matter what even if one is tapping a hammer against a nuclear detonator and my thirty-aught-six (7.62 x 63 mm for the technophiles) is the only thing that could possibly stop her.

  • John Kerry, War Hero||

    Didn't you learn a thing from Full Metal Jacket, soldier? It was EXACTLY like that! VC would have eaten you alive with that attitude towards women.

  • ||

    The way that bitch killed Cowboy? Plus, she asked for it, specifically.

  • alan||

    Could have smoked her out of there, and then brought her back to base camp to make some sweet loving. Taught her English, taught her the evil of communism and welfare statism through the works of Rothbard and Friedman, brought her to the states, had her work off her debt to Cowboy's family for ten years as an indentured servant, married her, started a family . . .

    hey, she was cute.

  • ||

    Animal Mother would have raped her on the spot.

  • alan||

    Well, I do love me some sloppy seconds. However, I would need a more romantic setting that the ground of that burned out zone, something like Trapper and Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce in MASH. She sees the sweet pad with the still in the corner, I think she'll lose the inhibitions Animal Mother imprinted right then and there!

  • Old Mexican||

    Taxation is not theft [according to Tony] when the government does it. How about when the BANKS do it?

    The Big Wall Street Banks Have Found a New Way To Strangle the American People: Predatory Property Tax Collection

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/rep.....ction.html

    1) It's "legal."
    2) It IS taxation.

  • hmm||

    Since federal funding is such a small amount they should willing give it up in order to eliminate any chance of being corrupted and maintain their high ethical standards.

    Right?

  • hmm||

    Let George fund that floundering fish. While Rupert makes money off their mistakes.

  • ||

    Hmm, you forgot to log-out and use your alternate account to reply to your own question.

  • IceTrey||

    NPR isn't directly funded by the federal government. They apply for grants from the government that are available to a large group of organizations.

  • FergieJenkins||

    Partially correct....The NPR member stations are funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is funded by Congress. The member stations then turn around and "purchase" programming from NPR through their "annual membership".

    It's washed...

  • ||

    Juan Williams learns what most whites have understood for a while now: there's no upside to talking about race. None.

  • affenkopf||

    Muslim is a race now?

  • ||

    Yup, when it's convenient for it to be.

  • ||

    Literally? No. As a proxy for "them people?" Sure.

    I don't think it was important in this context whether the garbed figures were from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

  • ||

    Are women a minority?

  • waffles||

    I like NPR, they play jazz and make me laugh at their partisan hackery. Would a station like NPR be able to exist without federal dollars?

    Certainly. The listeners should just give more. Should it stop receiving public money? Yes.

    In a fair world we would either have two public stations to contend with the bias (American Public Radio, huzzah!) or no public funding for this crap.

    The same assholes who think we should fund NPR with tax dollar as the assholes who think I'm not paying my fair share. Christ on a cracker, these assholes can and should fund themselves.

  • MNG||

    Do conservatives hate Voice of America? How about libertarians? If not can't we just pretend like NPR is state-side VOA :)?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: MNG,

    Do conservatives hate Voice of America? How about libertarians?

    As a libertarian I answer: If they gleefully take money that was taken from me or you under the threat of violence, then the people running VoA are damned THIEVES! No more than that and certainly much less.

  • No,||

    YOU pretend.

  • Tim||

    NPR should be fordced to spend 15% of its' subsidy on ethanol.

  • ||

    NPR doesn't fill any decent niches now. Many stations have cut back on classical programming, and our local "outlet" no longer broadcasts "Groove Salad." What's left besides all of those quasi-English intonations, "Car Talk" (featuring the cafone brothers)?
    To hell with NPR!

  • ||

    There was an interesting "This American Life" recently about police overreach and stat-juking.

    I never listen to NPR or any other radio stations -- anything worthwhile is available via podcast.

  • MNG||

    I can't believe NPR hasn't just placated the GOP by requiring its employees to wear US flag lapel pins and posting copies of the Ten Commandments in their lobby.

  • e e cummings||

    I just love poetic justice.

  • ||

    God, pledge week is just as bad as commercial advertising in my opinion.

    If they have to harass you for a week with obnoxious begging every few months, is this really any better than hocking a couple of minutes of adds at you 3 times an hour?

  • ||

    Ads don't come with tote bags, yo.

  • Juan||

    I believe you mean totenberg.

  • alan||

    I babysit my girlfriend's nephew every so often and I tune him in on the morning PBS shows, and the placard advertisement I see patting themselves on the back for supporting 'the kids', especially the Boeing one, are just pure obnoxious in a way you don't see on commercial TV. At least only some of those try to get your attention by annoying you.

  • Draco||

    But... but... if we do away with public radio, we'll be left only with private radio! Where will the public get what it really wants to hear? (You know, like classical music and authentic jazz and reports on the health of the snail darter population...) From evil corporations?

    Only the public sphere can protect us from the private sphere - all those private people doing unmonitored and unregulated things with their own evil private money. The government will make sure that we get the radio we really would want if we were more public minded.

  • waffles||

    the internet is freedom for now

  • Zeb||

    Not defending the public funding, but I almost never hear anything I want to hear on any radio station other than NPR.

  • Draco||

    Ok, I'll fess up: I am one of those very few Americans who enjoy classical music (everything from the pre-Baroque to modern), as well as authentic jazz (not "smooth jazz). I can only get that (in the car at least) from public radio - the corporate stations play nothing but drivel (because drivel is popular).

    I wish it were otherwise. But still I oppose taxpayer funding for public radio.

    And when I'm online I just plug into radioio.com or other services (to waffles' point).

  • ||

    Buy a CD.

  • ||

    Exactly. If you want classical, why use a radio? pod up.

  • Draco||

    Oh, and one more thing. Am I the only one who noticed that Nina Totenberg's last name means "mountain of corpses" in German? What an odd name for a totalitarian Leftist. (rim shot, canned laughter)

  • British Libtard Argument||

    Okay. Fine. Libertarians, if you want to live in a world without government, to be consistent you should be willing to forgo roads, national parks, public pensions, health care, radio, television and all of the other services government provides you.

  • ||

    BLA:

    No, you don't give up on these things. You accept that they are needed, and you ask the users to pay for them, thus entrance fees on parks, 401Ks instead of pensions, toll roads or local taxes for the roads. And in the US, the Govmint doesn't provide our TV. In the UK, you pay a TV license for the Govmint TV, but not here. Our TV is pretty good and in the UK, most of the creative TV is produced by the private marketplace rather than the tired old taxpayer financed BBC.

    Now, I will grant you this. If our lame PBS/NPR would step up to the level of the BBC in terms of news quality and scope and balance of coverage, I might be inclined to be more supportive. As it is, its just liberal party line 24/7/365.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: British Libtard Argument,

    [Ok, I know is satire, but I cannot contain myself!]

    if you want to live in a world without government, to be consistent you should be willing to forgo roads, national parks, public pensions, health care, radio, television and all of the other services government provides you.

    Roads: Where we're going, we don't need roads!
    National Parks: No, these will be private hunting ranches where animals will be kept thriving for our hunting enjoyment!
    Public pensions: What are those? I only know ONE thing the government does and that is property transfers from the productive to the non-productive.
    Health Care: You mean only government spawns doctors? No way!
    Radio: Uh? Is that like an iPod?
    Television: I can do without BBC, thank you very much!

    I believe I can still live without government!

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    You know who else was in favor of government-run radio?

  • ||

    Lenin? Stalin? Hitler? Mooseleaning? Chavez? I give up.

  • ||

    I would do what Juan Williams does for half what he's getting paid. Hell, just by subscribing to the NYT and the WaPo, I could probably do exactly what he does (give the "responsible" liberal "mainstream" position). For $1MM, I could probably even do it with a straight face.

  • ||

    Yes, you could, but are you black with a Hispanic first name? That's the kicker. His competitive advantage, if you will allow me to say so.

  • ||

    Nina Totenberg's last name means "mountain of corpses" in German

    So. Awesome. Thanks, Draco.

  • ||

    Will this lead to another round of emails about how they're about to shut down Sesame Street?

  • ||

    I hope so. Did you know that those puppets are naked under all that colorful fuzz?

  • MattN||

    What a piece of junk. Is Reason really this desperate for content?

  • hmm||

    Well that was helpful, or funny, or trollish...

    or not so much.

  • ||

    No, they're desperate for your page view and comment activity. Looks like it worked.

  • MattN||

    Hehehe -- this makes me chuckle.

    Actually, my purpose was two-fold: Express my displeasure at the quality of the piece so that maybe someone at Reason would take note, even if ever so slightly; and to find out if anyone else agreed... apparently not (or maybe they just moved on and didn't bother to comment -- probably what I should have done).

  • Xeones||

    I listen to NPR occasionally. They sure do spend a lot of time asking for money for an entity with its hand in my pocket already.

  • ||

    I really wanted to be tickled that a government-funded entity actually fired someone.

    But I listened to that Juan Williams clip from the O'Really show, and kept waiting for the "offensive" part. There isn't one. Now, if Williams were just a bit sharper, he might consider that the Muslims who get on the plane wearing the funny crochet hats and headscarves and hijab aren't the ones you gotta worry about. But he's entitled to his facile opinion. And it really had nothing to do with his job at NPR, or the price o' tea in China, or anything.

    National Pinko Radio, they're new at this "firing" thing. It'll take them a couple of years to warm up to it, get the hang of it, maybe start firing some people for actual misconduct and poor performance instead of for expressing divergent opinions.

    I listened to NPR last night during my commute home, and they were being insufferably smug little hipsters about the Williams firing. I'd hate to have those self-congratulatory c*nts as co-workers. Williams should stop hyperventilating to the press about how unfair this all is, and fire off a simple, "Good riddance; I hated those queens."

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Boortz referred to it today as "National Palestinian Radio". I damned near giggle-snorted the mouthful of coffee I was quaffing at the time. Great way to describe that worthless radio outlet.

  • ||

    I have no use for NPR but don't think for one second the neo-cons would be crying censorship if Williams were fired for calling out the abuses of the Bush-Cheney era. I think both sides are all a bunch of hypocrites on this issue.

  • ||

    Fuck NPR and fuck the rest of the leftist Obama-scum. Human cockroaches.

  • ||

    You are sOoOoOo wrong Mr. Walker. I look forward to your crow stew article post defunding...oh, but wait, being liberal means never having to say your sorry or wrong or stupid or hateful.

  • Progressive Hate Speech||

    That's right, I'm never sorry. I want to be able to count off the reasons that I hate you on your own dime.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Why can't they just talk about defunding NPR, PBS, Radio Marti, etc. on the grounds that the government shouldn't be taking taxpayer money to give it to what are basically private entertainment?

    And whats with this trust fund shit, and why are "free market" economists supporting it? Real free market economists should be in favor of nothing less than getting rid of all public broadcasting funding and abolishing any protection of it as a public interest.

  • ||

    It just proves what a fake conservative Newt is, Nixon before him, etc, etc. If they don't cut the whole enchilada off, they are fake also. Sink or swim. If the USA goes bankrupt, where will they get funding from? Kinder to cut them off now.

  • Peter Jensen||

    All that media centered fuss for peanuts miles away from our real problems.

  • TJP||

    The drama is pointless. The federal government is not authorized by the Constitution to publish magazines, run TV stations or operate radio stations. (And a distinction based on the path taxpayer funds follow is irrelevant.) That's not promoting the useful arts, that's directly producing them in competition with private entities.

    If NPR is being threatened to change their programming over the Juan Williams incident, they should just tell their critics to eff off, and defund themselves. I wish state-run NPR had a right-wing slant, because while skinflint limousine liberals won't cough up the cash to keep NPR running, they most certainly would complain loudly enough to end NPR's corporate welfare benefits.

  • ABC||

    Remove the subsidies NPR gets in terms of bandwith allotment.

    Sell off the airwaves.

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