The Truth about NPR.

Just as I exposed the health care debate to the sunshine of obvious common sense—which resulted in passage of the law, because all the members of Congress and the President read my blog—let me do the same for the NPR federal funding crisis.

Let’s start with a fact. NPR is liberal—if liberal means “having an ounce of compassion for your fellow man.” This distinction ought not be something NPR is ashamed of. NPR carries news stories that examine in depth the impact of events on the less powerful—stories that by and large are not explored elsewhere on the radio.

It’s ridiculous for us liberals to pretend that NPR isn’t liberal. It makes us look as if we’ve got something to hide when we pretend this, and it makes us look foolish.

The point isn’t that NPR is liberal. It is that in many parts of the country, especially the more rural parts, the local NPR station is the only local liberal voice on the airwaves. All else is Limbaugh and Beck.

If the Republicans in the House succeed in defunding NPR, the local NPR stations in New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston and Seattle will be fine. Those places have enough people in them to come up with the scratch to keep their local stations going.

But the local NPR stations in places like Kansas and Nebraska, where not so many people live, won’t be fine.

And that’s exactly the point.

The Republicans in Congress come from places like Kansas and Nebraska. They’d be happy to see the lone opposition voice in their legislative districts silenced. That’s what this is all about. It’s not about killing NPR. It’s about killing rural NPR stations, congressional district by congressional district.

Clarence Page, to his credit, gets to the crux of the matter in his Chicago Tribune op-ed piece today. To his discredit, it takes him 400 words to get to the crux, and even then he phrases it coyly (“Of course, maybe those same lawmakers would just as soon see fewer alternatives to conservative radio talk shows”), but you can’t have everything.


4 Comments on “The Truth about NPR.”

  1. Your point is well expressed, and I believe you are seeing the issue in a refreshingly true light. However, my hypothetical question is, if a political viewpoint or philosophy is not commercially viable, if it cannot survive in the marketplace of ideas, should the government subsidize it? If so, should it subsidize only liberal-progressive views? Should it subsidize radical views, those out of the mainstream, or conservative voices where they are rare (coastal urban areas, for instance)? And who decides what political speech, what social agenda merits government largesse?

  2. Rovronr says:

    Since when is 2% (or 6%, or whatever) of funding ‘government largesse’?
    From the NPR website:

    “NPR receives about 2 percent of its budget each year from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and federal agencies — but public radio stations that purchase NPR’s programming receive more federal dollars and send some of that money back to NPR in fees. In fiscal 2008, for example, grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting accounted for about 10 percent of public radio stations’ revenue. The stations got about 6 percent of their revenue from other federal, state and local government sources.”

    Since when are conservatives lacking a voice on the radio?

    For some, apparently, reality has a liberal bias.
    Truth has no ideology.
    It’s just true.

  3. If NPR and PBS receive so little government funding and are not at all dependent upon it, then they should reject it and go totally private. As private corporations they will be liberated from ideological restraints. They will only have to answer to their sponsors, patrons, and audience and not to cranky, narrow-minded politicians. Tax payers won’t have to complain about their money going to political speech with which they disagree, and congressmen won’t have to appropriate funds to an organization that may be supporting their opposition. — This is America. We believe in private enterprise and fair competition. We only rely upon the government for things the private sector can’t do. Get rid of the public money and the executives with the non-profit mindset. NPR and PBS can flourish as part of the private sector.

  4. Rovronr says:

    “As private corporations they will be liberated from ideological restraints.”
    Just like FOX TV.

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