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Saturday, February 12, 2011

NPR, PBS and the government

                 You may have seen solicitations like this:

Tell Congress: Don't pull the plug on NPR and PBS!

We're only a few weeks into the 112th Congress, and Republicans are already attempting to pull the plug on public media.

In a budget proposal made public on Wednesday, House Republicans announced plans to zero out all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the nonprofit responsible for funding public media including NPR, PBS, Pacifica and more.

If the Republicans are successful, it would be a tremendous blow to the entire public interest media sector.

We cannot allow Republicans to destroy public media.




I don’t know about this. I’m a member of NPR (locally, WBEZ) and my wife supports PBS (WTTW). I’m a very frequent listener to NPR and PRI shows.  But I’m ambiguous about this campaign because I’m ambiguous about public support of news programming.

1. It’s overtly partisan. But CPB isn’t supposed to be partisan.

2. Gosh, we have to cut the budget SOMEWHERE.  There’s a lot of pain to go around, and I can’t see why CPB should be immune.

3. Philosophically, I won’t much like the idea of the government funding so much news coverage. I know the British seem to make it work with the BBC, but in general government funding of news means government news.

4. I’m not sure that true independence might not be better.  I remember when WBEZ used to be part of the Chicago Public Schools, and was at best a mediocre public radio outlet.  In a budget-cutting move, CPS cut off all funding for WBEZ and forced it to stand on its own.  This was very successful – WBEZ is one of the flagship PBS stations now, up there with WNYC and WGBH.

5. Regardless of direct funding, public stations receive a huge public subsidy because they don’t have to pay taxes.  In terms of public support, I favor this type of method because it’s more likely to be nonpartisan.  For example, we have big tax exemptions for churches but no state religion.

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