Engaging Culture

NPR: National Pathetic Radio?

We’ve known for years that public broadcasting in America is highly partisan.  That’s no surprise.  But last week’s firing of Juan Williams from NPR really exposed just how politically correct that network’s become.  By now, everyone knows just how lame CEO Vivian Schiller was in firing Williams, but to see her flip flop on the reasons is embarrassing.

His comment (a personal opinion) was that when he gets on a plane and sees a Muslim in full garb, the realization that they’re first and formost identifying themselves as Muslim makes him a little nervous.  No surprise there.  90% of Americans probably feel the same way.  Hey – in the post 9/11 world, I sometimes think the same thing when a biker, a gang banger, a rock star, a tattoo artist, an Orthodox Jew, a priest, or anyone else who looks out of the ordinary gets on a plane.

But apparently on NPR, honest opinions aren’t welcome anymore.  It’s far more important that they tow the liberal line.  NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg has voiced support for liberal causes for years without any pushback.  Remember her suggestion in 1995 that “Jesse Helms or one of his grandchildren would get AIDS as a payback for his having opposed government funding for research.”  She regularly appears on programs like Inside Washington to offer her opinions as a liberal ideologue.

When pressed, Schiller defended her decision to the Atlanta Press Club with the comment that “His (Williams) feelings that he expressed on Fox News are really between him and his you know, psychiatrist or his publicist.  Take your pick.”

Is that the kind of condescending comment the CEO of National Public Radio – an organization funded by taxpayer dollars should be making?

My beef isn’t left or right wing here.  After all, left leaning journalists from organizations like the Los Angeles Times have criticized Schiller as well.  The point is that either it’s time to revaluate the $400 million taxpayer dollars that fund the entire public broadcasting spectrum, or at the very least, face the fact that the wrong person got fired at NPR.

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  1. Sadly, I agree. The old Public Broadcasting Corp. was a noble experiment. The original McNeil/Lehrer Report was one of the first true attempts to be fair and balanced with a news report, in competition with biased networks. And, had it not been for public broadcasting William Buckley’s Firing Line might never have seen the light of day. That show could have been the last time we have had civil debate in this country. But now, PBS and NPR are a shadow of their former selves. The Juan Williams firing was a travesty. I see the pulling of government funding to be a separate issue, however, there is no reason for the government to in any way fund a broadcasting outlet these days. There is sufficient competition in the marketplace. The issue is, should I still listen and support public broadcasting? I am beginning to think the answer is no.

  2.  Just like the bulls eye on a dart board, the target is pretty small.  NPR get only a minor portion of it’s funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). CPB in turn gets its funding from our taxes and interest drawn from the CPB accounts (whose balances carry over each year).  I’m not a fan of the NPR bias, however I wonder how different are they compared to Christian Radio (in regards to their opinion)?  Obviously they are providing programming that a majority of their non-government donors (which make up 80% to 85% of their budget) want to hear or agree with. My opinion is that if the government is going to fund CPB which approves grants to NPR, then they should approve grants to the likes of BOTT or AFR or EMF.  Of course, then they will also need to approve grants for ALL other non-profit radio formats.  CPB was founded in 1967, a couple years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and in the middle of the Vietnam War. Back when there were few stations and the government needed to “get the word out” about national safety concerns and when “education” was a a priority. As the majority of the public has moved to listen to other options, NPR has shaken off it’s need to please the masses and has gone where it’s donors have taken it. I don’t think it’s pointless to yell at the government about CPB’s payouts, but know this… NPR can survive without CPB’s funding, and therefore without our taxes.  If you want to change NPR talk to the grant providers like the Kroc Estate (as in McDonald’s Corporation) or your local underwriters. As Phil has taught us, boycotts don’t work.  But patient conversations that build relationships might.

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