Danny Cardwell's picture

    The War On Public Radio

    “Republicans and the new Administration need to demonstrate that we take our fiscal responsibility seriously...That’s why I have reintroduced two pieces of legislation to permanently defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. CPB received $445 million during Fiscal Year 2016, and this money could be put to better use rebuilding our military and enhancing our national security.”

      Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)


    During the first presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle Mitt Romney gave Twitter mana from heaven when he said, “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.” That was a little over four years ago, Big Bird (like many others who depend on The Cooperation for Public Broadcasting) breathed a sigh of relief when Mitt Romney was defeated that November, but that wasn’t the beginning or end of the Republican war on access to Public television and radio.


    On January 31st, Congressman Doug Lamborn, from Colorado’s 5th Congressional District introduced two bills H.R. 726 and H.R. 727 to defund NPR and the CPB. H.R. 726 is a bill that, in his words, “Prohibits public radio stations from using federal funds to purchase programming from and/or pay dues to NPR.” In fiscal year 2015 NPR received $81 million dollars from programming fees and dues. The second part of this bill would prohibit direct Federal funding of NPR which would cut another $5 million dollars from their coffers. The congressman’s bill would cut over 40% of NPR’s operational budget. H.R. 727 would end all federal funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting after fiscal year 2019. With two pieces of legislation, one Congressman with a simple majority in both houses could give President Trump a bill that could permanently destroy public access television and radio in America.


    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has been in the ideological and fiscal crosshairs of the Republican party since its inception in 1967. In 1971 President Nixon denied National Public Radio (NPR) space in the White House press room; this was followed by a 1972 veto of funds allocated to the CPB and the firing of top PBS officials. President Nixon almost killed Public radio and television at a time when neither entity was a thorn in his side. NPR (either out of good journalism or spite) gave voice to the antiwar movement and provided extensive coverage of the Washington Post’s investigations into the Watergate break in and cover up. The national media’s reluctance to cross the Nixon administration gave NPR legitimacy with their core audience, but also to those who opposed the war. NPR barley survived the Nixon administration. NPR didn’t get White House access until Nixon resigned.


    For the two years of Ford administration and the four years of the Carter administration, The CPB, NPR, and PBS lived without the threat of elimination. That changed when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. President Reagan’s free market principles fueled his push eliminate federal funding to the CPB. It’s a mathematical fact that Ronald Reagan tripled the federal debt over the course of his two terms, yet his “fiscal conservatism” led him to believe that NPR and PBS shouldn’t be subsidized by the federal government and should fend for themselves in the free market. In 1983 President Reagan asked congress to cut 20% of the funds allocated for CPB funding. These cuts hurt NPR and some of the smaller stations that were heavily dependent on federal dollars. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting survived because listeners got involved and picked up the slack financially. I don’t believe there’s enough evidence for one to be optimistic about NPR and CPB surviving the 115th Congress and the Trump administration. 


    Conservative arguments for defunding the CPB are compelling if you hear them without any context. CPB funding falls under the discretionary spending portion of the budget. In 2015 the $445 million dollars appropriated for the CPB (which is the same amount allocated for FY 2017) wasn’t a big enough percent of the budget to make most of the pie charts I researched. A person would have to be disingenuous or terribly bad at math to believe the Federal Budget can be brought back into balance by eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB funding costs taxpayers $1.35 per year. This kind of ideological budget cutting is like a shopaholic trying to balance their personal budget by not buying a pack of chewing gum once a year instead of cutting back on shoes, slacks, and sport coats. The worst part of Congressman Lamborn’s argument is the notion that another $445 million dollars added to the military budget would make anyone safer.



    In 2011, the 112th House of Representatives passed a version of Congressman Lamborn’s defund NPR bill on a partisan vote 228-192. There’s no doubt in my mind house Republicans will support this legislation again; this puts even more pressure on Senate Democrats to keep these bills from reaching the President’s desk. Senate Democrats have to vote in unison against H.R. 726 and H.R. 727, and peel off some of the same Republicans who helped them kill this legislation in 2011. The confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos ended with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. The fact that so many Republicans voted to confirm someone so woefully unqualified to be the Secretary of Education doesn’t bode well for NPR and the CPB. This leaves Senate Democrats with zero room for error if NPR and the CPB are going to survive.


    Information is easier to get than ever, yet we’re being dragged towards a post-truth/“alternative facts” reality where truth is a subjective concept instead of an objective one. We have an administration that makes decisions based on how they perceive the very facts they make up. A crowd of a couple hundred thousand can become a million plus, lies are capped off with strong exclamation points designed to end debate, and when in doubt: they fabricate terrorist attacks and then blame the media for not covering them.


    NPR has been a solid voice for truth and reason inside to beltway. I know progressives who were dissatisfied with their coverage of the Iraq war and their concerns were warranted, but this has to be an issue the left can unite on. This administration's animus towards the media doesn’t bode well for the future of free public access to information. NPR is just one front in this fight. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds over 1,100 public radio stations; some of these stations are the sole source provider of radio content in their area. Defunding the CPB is another example of Republicans enacting policies that hurt their constituents. Many of the rural radio stations that rely on CPB funding would have to make major cuts in payroll, programing, and services to survive; those will be the lucky ones: others will be forced to close their doors. During an emergency radio has always been a reliable way to get important information out to rural communities. Coordination between emergency management teams, first responders, and the community is a priceless service provided by community radio stations, yet this relationship is in jeopardy to save less than one tenth of one percent of the Federal Budget. This doesn’t make sense.




    I have been watching this war between repubs and public radio (and public tv) for several decades.

    The problem seemed to be that the repubs felt that public media was toooooooooooo damned liberal.

    Just think about Sesame Street in the 80's telling our babies that all humans should be embraced regardless of race, color or creed. I mean how liberal could you really get. hahahhahaahah

    They might get away with it now.

    They have a votes.

    It pisses me off of course.

    But using the internet and other media public media will survive one way or the other. The public support is there.

    The good guys just have to tap into that support.

    And if public radio and public tv survive with good ratings and good critiques, the repubs will become shame faced; to say the least.

    I believe that.


    I'm trying to put together some contingency plans for the radio station I manage. We have CPB funding through 2018, but after that we are up in the air. If this congress passes this bill it will be game over for a lot of small radio stations.

    PBS (TV) needs to announce that in conjunction with the federal funded CPB, and due to high demand from viewers of PBS, a 12 part TV special is being planned called Trump's World. It would detail his architectural masterpieces, his 'smarts', his road to the White House, his successful family, his philanthropy, why New Yorkers love him, Ivana's entrepreneurship and unique style line etc.

    Okay, all righty then I hereby render unto NCD The Dayly Comment of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site, given to all of NCD from all of me.


    That's actually genius. We can use the emperor's ego for some good! We could even make up some false ratings for the series.

    The Republicans don't believe in education or art. If you can't make a profit or kill with it , it has no value. Privatize the national parks and the zoos. Devos our Secretary of Education is a measure of our view of the importance of learning. The National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities are also under assault.


    This is sad!


    Good post, Danny. I don't think the Republicans hate education and art. I think they want to keep them as monopolies of the wealthy. What they cannot abide is regular people having access to the same education and art as the privileged.

    Thanks for reading this post Doc!

    As if the military needs more money? And don't they have an issue with accountability of their funding ....10's of 100's of millions of $$$ are always unaccounted for?  And if I'm not mistaken, the five-sided foxhole's funding is more than that spent by England, France and Germany. Note too ...

    " ... In fiscal year 2015, military spending is projected to account for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, a total of $598.5 billion. ... "

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but $445 million is only 1.34% of $598.5 billion ... it doesn't buy anything of value. Perhaps the foolish republican congress-critter might want to ear-mark the money for a specific program with a comparable cost to prove he's not throwing the money down a bottomless pit.

    It's sad! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post!

    I'm a day late and a dollar short, but I had an epiphany a few days ago.

    The farm belt is Trump's cash cow. And farmers get quite a few subsidies. Like being paid  " n o t " to grow for a season or more. Now wouldn't being paid not to grow crops be no different than being paid unemployment compensation because you can't find work? Is there a difference between the two I fail to see? Both the farmer and the unemployed worker are fully capable of working ... one is paid not to work and the other because he can't find work. Would I be correct in " a s s u m i n g  " farm subsidies is a form of welfare? And there's more than just this one too. Something about milk and cheese over production and so forth. The government picks up the excess and finds a place to store it so as to keep consumer prices high so farmers don't go bankrupt.

    Perhaps the best way to tackle Trump and his republican minions would be to identify republican welfare given to their constituents and demand they bring it under control as well. And if they defend such welfare, remind them of Adam Smith as well as their demand to de-regulate any and everything.

    So re-framing the defunding debate should point out if NPR and CBP can be targeted, so too should farm welfare. And I suspect, there's more money to be recaptured from farming than from NPR and CBP.

    Sorry I'm so late getting to this comment. I think you are 100% right. The way this is framed has an impact. Putting this administration on the hook for answering questions about their economic priorities is vital. The sustained war on the arts and education is in danger of being won by those invested in limiting access to education.

    You people are idiots.  It's these kind of comments that put NPR in jeopardy.  You show disdain for half the people who pay taxes in this country.  

    I used to be an active listener and financial supporter of National Public Radio.  I used to value the content on science, art and local happenings.  In recent years, I find NPR to be obsessively concerned with furthering the political views of one side in America, the left.  To me, it is a dull and boring as listening to Rush Limbaugh.  It is less honest that listening to Limbaugh, because, at least Rush doesn't try to pretend he has any balance.  

    I have come to the conclusion that that reporters, commentators and producers at NPR are not able to give up their fanatical obsession with trying to push their democrat party agenda.  

    Or, they may have painted themselves into a corner by fostering an audience that so falling into an co-dependent relationship with a left-wing audience that is fiercely supportive.  That same audience might turn down the heat on the loyalty if they suspect that NPR is not as fanatical as they are.  So, NPR has alienated half of the people who pay their bills.  If they lose the "I can't live without NPR" crowd, NPR will be left with nothing but enemies.  

    If NPR is to survive, and I hope they will, they need to get out of politics and get back to science, art, culture without the political bent.  I don't believe they will be able to do that, but I hope they can.

    When the government sponsors a medium that tries to influence politics, that is a dangerous situation.  

    Been locked too long in a Fox News Hate Hadio bubble, and beginning to not like the reality of the Trump Con you are hearing about now, (if you can add 1 +1) on NPR?

    So kill the messenger? Press is the enemy of the people, right? Especially when the government is headed by a lying race baiting demagogue.

    How about when the government does nothing but sponsor partisan politics? Blocks everything? Exploits ignorance and fear for their own benefit? Doesn't allow a vote on a Supreme Court appointee? Threatens default on the nation's debt?

    The endless GOP investigations of the other Party, and openly saying they should not investigate their own?

    Using government money and contracts for political patronage - think private prisons, dreams of sending Social Security and Medicare to their Wall Street co-conspirators. Fill their administration with billionaires.

    And that every last thing the GOP does is aimed towards rewarding themselves and their rich supporters.

    Like today, the Fantastic Trump Health Care Bill, removes the corporate tax deduction cap of 1/2 million for the pay of CEOs, in for profit health care corporations.

    Ends the ACA requirement for Wall Street corp's to spend a minimum % of health insurance receipts from subscribers on actual health care costs for subscribers. More money left to send to the GOP.

    There were ardent Germans who believed their lying race baiting demagogue would 'win' for them, and kept believing, until Russian artillery shells came crashing through their neatly tiled roofs.

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