Politicians and public broadcasting

How deeply involved in radio and TV station programming should politicians be?

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal that would have barred local public radio and TV stations from buying any programming from NPR (formerly “National Public Radio”).

According to Radio Ink Magazine:


The House has rejected a Republican push to block public stations from using their Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants to buy NPR programming, voting not to take up the matter. NPR receives little direct government funding, but would have lost a significant part of its funding with the end of CPB-funded programming purchases.

The attempt to block NPR funding came after a poll on the Republican YouCut website showed it as the top choice among respondents for a spending cut. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (VA) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in a joint statement also cited NPR’s abrupt firing of analyst Juan Williams — a liberal commentator who also appears regularly on Fox News — as proof of political bias at the public broadcaster. Williams was fired after he said on Fox that he gets “nervous” when seeing Muslims in traditional dress at airports.

The proposal will likely make a return appearance once Republicans take control of the House next year.

Make no mistake about it, this is topic #1 in public broadcasting circles. They’re very worried that their budgets will be cut by the loss of CPB funds (which come primarily through government grants).

But the threat of it is a big stick that politicians carry, not unlike the one it uses on Major League Baseball through its granting of an anti-trust exemption. Congress has constantly threatened to pull the anti-trust exemption to extract action from this private business (that’s why Washington keeps getting baseball teams after it continually proves it shouldn’t have one). If they ever actually followed through on the threat, Congress would be giving up power.

(Here’s a list of how CPB money is presently allocated in Minnesota)

  • Tyler

    Ah, the joys of mob rule.

    Hopefully, public media organizations are able to move their budgets away from public (government) money.

  • MB

    And let’s see if this intimidation campaign works. Will NPR and CPB cede their personnel decisions – which pundits to use and not use – to the natl GOP?

    Another reminder about the uses/abuses of power

  • GregS

    NPR is a partisan political organization, it is only logical, legal and just that it forfeit public support.

  • Bob Collins

    It comes through so obviously when I listen to Car Talk.

    Clearly biased toward carbureted engines over fuel injection.

  • GregS

    So you have noticed that bias too? Let’s keep it our little secret or Car-Talk is history.