Yesterday, in a predictably partisan vote, the House of Representatives’ GOP majority narrowly voted to defund National Public Radio. The object of the proposed legislation is to deny local public radio stations the federal funds they need to purchase national NPR programming, essentially hastening their extinction. Given the budgetary battles raging on Capital Hill, it would stand to reason that the GOP has similar intentions for PBS. Currently the only safeguard for the CPB is the U.S. Senate, where the House bill will likely fizzle. In an interview with CBS News, Mike Risken, NPR’s VP of Policy and Representation explains how, and why, Republicans are circling public radio’s wagons.
Monthly Archives: March 2011
MSNBC has compiled a little slideshow of cartoons illustrating the GOP’s assault on PBS (like the one above from Daryl Cagle). It is worth a look. Sadly, the residents of Sesame Street seem to bear most of the indignity. Click here to see the slideshow.
‘Tis the season. PBS needs your support once again, and according to Elizabeth Jensen in the New York Times, this year’s pledge drives will be especially desperate and aggressive with the CPB’s federal funding hanging in the balance. Jensen offers an intriguing outlook on pledge drives (originally termed “Festivals”) and points to their future as PBS.Org begins to integrate a new localized funding engine that may even be attracting younger supporters (how many, there’s apparently no telling). Meanwhile, in some markets, viewer complaints have been able to curtail pledge drives altogether in favor of “can’t miss” local events like antique appraisal fairs! It’s a good read, so click here to have at it.
Pledge drives do have a way of making PBS seem like a charity case, which demeans the importance of its mission. And it would be nice to find a way to fund PBS that at least doesn’t annoy people. For now, however, we’re stuck with the system we have, and the need is more serious than ever, so take a minute to make a donation on the new and improved PBS.Org.
If NPR were to lose its federal funding, Hamilton Nolan at Gawker rejects the popular doomsday scenarios floated by NPR’s defenders, including Vivian Schiller on the day before she resigned her post as NPR’s CEO. At worst, Nolan reasons, it would mean across the board budget cuts, but not extinction. He writes:
NPR reportedly believes that “up to 100 stations could go dark without” CPB funding. Really? Is there no re-allocation of funds that could prevent such a massacre? A 10% reduction in funding doesn’t necessarily mean 100 dead stations; it can just as easily mean a 10% budget cut at each station. In 2008, in the midst of the recession, NPR cut its workforce by 7% in a massive round of layoffs. And look: two years later, NPR and its member stations are still here.
Nolan offers no solution for alternative funding systems, but does make the case that NPR is as robust a content model as exists in radio and doesn’t deserve the headache of constantly defending itself from partisan attack at every turn. We might tend to agree, but the conversation really needs to turn to future solutions for funding public media, especially PBS, whose situation is decidedly more complicated. It also bears mentioning that PBS was approached by the same Project Veritas sting agents, but did not meet with them after their credentials could not be verified.
We at FIXPBS would like to take a moment to mourn the passing of David Broder, Pulitzer-winning political columnist, dear family friend, and true blue Cubs fan. In our world of celebrity journalists, David was a seeker of truth, never fame, and hopefully his legacy can inspire others to the same pursuit. Our thoughts are with his family, and also with his readers who have lost a rare and trusted voice.
It seems NPR’s Board has now seen fit to oust CEO Vivian Schiller, who has been a lightning rod for Republican indignation ever since she fired Juan Williams. Yesterday, a James O’Keefe video sting exposed Ron Schiller (no relation), NPR’s VP of Development, as he aired unfortunate and seemingly biased opinions to undercover operatives of O’Keefe’s “Project Veritas”. This seems to have been the last strike for Ms. Schiller, and a decisive PR move to clean house as CPB prepares for what may prove to be a “do or die” appropriation battle. But if you think the Juan Williams story gave conservative forces reason to rant, this will clearly raise their outrage level to heights unseen in four decades of public broadcasting debate. We will keep you posted on any further fallout. For now, we will let Vivian Schiller make her own case for NPR’s complete lack of bias, the growth market in public media, and the future of radio. Click to here to see her interview with Jon Friedman of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network.
It seems that the Tea Party has a new boogeyman…Big Bird. As a titanic budget battle looms on Capitol Hill, Republican threats to zero CPB funding are making news. The defense of PBS and NPR has even become a Facebook cause du jour, as ‘170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting’ offers up the most concerted “Save PBS” campaign to date. Whether it is the GOP’s lingering outrage at NPR’s controversial firing of Juan Williams, or their current fever to defund any bastion of liberalism, PBS and NPR do seem more vulnerable than usual. Whether the CPB can continue to duck the budget axe, only time will tell. In a recent revelation exposed by some rather dubious undercover journalists, Ron Schiller, President of the NPR Foundation and Senior Vice President of Development, seems certain that NPR could not only survive without its appropriation, it might be better off:
Clearly this video will only further the Tea Party’s arguments, but still, Mr. Schiller does raise an important question. What if public broadcasting could carry on without a federal appropriation? With proper time and planning to develop the right funding system, PBS and NPR might minimize the pain in the short run, and in the long run, they could write their own checks someday. Without a strategy in place, those checks will bounce before they’re written.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports that Mr. Schiller has resigned, and it has come to light that James O’Keefe, the right wing provocateur known for his controversial undercover ACORN videos, also orchestrated this video sting.