Commentary: House Republicans and their vote to defund public broadcasting

Matthew L. Schafer,, 2/19/11

[Last] Saturday, the House passed H.R. 1, a bill that would defund public media.  The bill, which passed 235 to 189, now heads to the Senate.  Currently, around $420 million, or $1.40 per capita from the federal government, [goes to] NPR and PBS, as well as local member stations around the United States.  "This is clearly political, not budgetary," Timothy Karr at Free Press said.  "Every time the GOP is in power, they offer a new measure to kill public broadcasting. But there's something they don't take into consideration -- the American people love public broadcasting."  Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) had introduced a bill to defund NPR last year, and while some in the industry didn't believe it would go anywhere, the recent NPR firing of Juan Williams reignited Republican desires to zero out the funding.  "I'm a fan of public broadcasting," Lamborn said [last] Thursday. "But we have to share in this as Americans to get our fiscal house in order.  No one's talking about eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or NPR. We're just saying let's not have the taxpayer subsidy."  The Democrat-controlled Senate is more friendly to public broadcasting.  Moreover, President Obama would have to sign the bill into law for it to have an effect, but has already indicated that he will veto it.


Commentary: Public radio/TV in GOP districts will be hurt more by federal cuts

Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/21/11

House Republicans are in for a surprise if they intend to dish some payback to liberal parts of the nation by eliminating federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which conservative politicians have long claimed is a liberal mouthpiece.  Small television and radio stations serving rural, politically red areas in California and other states would likely feel the biggest impact of such a move because 70% of public broadcasting funds are channeled to local stations.  Well-endowed public broadcasting outlets in more liberal metropolitan areas -- such as KQED in San Francisco -- probably would be able to survive their share of a cut that is part of a GOP-sponsored bill that passed the House on Saturday.  Only 7.8% of KQED's budget comes from the federal government, and the station has enough corporate and foundation donors -- not to mention 200,000 members -- to be able to absorb the blow better than most. That's not the case at KIXE-TV in Redding, where 45% of the station's $1.7 million budget comes from federal taxpayers. The station is located in one of the few California counties that supported Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.  Voters there have backed conservative Rep. Wally Herger for 13 terms. On Saturday, he voted in favor of the GOP's plan.  "The victim from this cut will be all of the red-state rural stations," said Phil Smith, general manager of KIXE. "I told Congressman Herger, 'You're going to be wiping out all of your friends with this.'"


Public TV funding comparison


Commentary: Might American public broadcasting follow the BBC model?

Emily Badger,, 2/22/11

As politicians in Washington debate defunding public media outlets like NPR and PBS, out of a mix of concern for the deficit and political animosity for the concept, there's one larger piece of context worth considering. America is the only major democracy in the West to rely almost entirely on commercial media to comprehensively inform its citizens.  Public media here is a small niche, the domain, depending on your preferred stereotype, of urbanites, educated elites and liberal insiders. Out of a population of 300 million people in the U.S., about 8% in an average week listen to NPR, and 25% catch some PBS.  In most of Europe -- and for that matter Canada, Australia and Japan -- public media represent something entirely different.  The experience of Great Britain and other countries -- and related research about the quality of their public programming and the knowledge base of their citizens -- suggests the U.S. should ramp up support for public broadcasting at exactly the moment when some propose eliminating it all together. 



Video flashback: Mr. Rogers defends PBS funding to Congress in 1969

GIA News, 2/24/11

Facing a similarly dire funding situation in 1969, Fred Rogers addressed the (increasingly enraptured) Senate.  You can watch a 6-minute video clip of Mr. Rogers' Congressional testimony here.




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