Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Attack on non-Conservative Media

Commentary: GOP's NPR defunding is more about ideology than money
James Werrell
The Rock Hill Herald

I long ago decided I like the sound of droning voices on the radio better than music while I'm driving. That's why my car radio stays set most of the time on National Public Radio.

But I might have to make adjustments. Republicans in Congress would like to take the "public" out of NPR and make it sink or swim on its own.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 236-181 to defund NPR. The vote was along party lines with only seven Republicans breaking ranks to vote against the bill.

Republicans have been after NPR for years, claiming it has a distinctly liberal bias. But the rationale in Thursday's debate was that, in these difficult economic times, the government has no business subsidizing noncommercial public broadcasting that can be found on other news and entertainment sources in the open market.

There is a question as to how much the federal government props up NPR and how important that contribution is to NPR's overall operation. NPR officials like to say they receive only about 2 percent of their funding from the government.

But that's a bit disingenuous.

It is true that the government provides only a small amount of direct financial support to NPR. More than half of NPR's money comes from pledge drives and corporate sponsorships.

But the remaining 40 percent comes from dues paid by the more than 700 member stations to buy programming and content. While Congress doesn't give much money directly to NPR, it provides most of the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which, in turn, gives money to member stations to buy programming from NPR.

So, in the end, taxpayers are funding a significant share of NPR's budget.

If that money goes away, stations in larger cities probably would have little trouble getting donors to replace it. It is the smaller stations in the rural, less densely populated areas - and their listeners - who would suffer the most.

I'm not as convinced as House Republicans that the programs broadcast on NPR can be found elsewhere in the commercial market, especially if you hope to find them on one station. If commercial radio could have given birth to the equivalent of "Car Talk" or "This American Life," it already would have - and it hasn't.

I also dispute the notion that NPR has an overwhelming political bias. It certainly is not the rabid progressive counterpart to Rush Limbaugh.

What it is, mostly, is elitist.

It is designed to appeal to intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals around the nation who share a fondness for goofy humor, classical music, lattes, L.L. Bean, wine and Labrador retrievers.

NPR is for people who live in Seattle, Austin, Boston and Montpelier - or people who wish they did.

"Public radio" is 44th on the list of "Stuff White People Like," ( a compendium of things that help define a certain segment of upper-middle-class, educated Americans who shun displays of conspicuous wealth. No. 1 on the list is "coffee"; No. 2 is "religions their parents don't belong to."

By the way, if you don't want to be lumped in with this stereotype, it helps not to like NPR too much. I listen to it only while driving, and I am very ambivalent about Garrison Keillor and contemporary Irish music.

But it is surprising to me how much good information you can pick up from shows such as "Fresh Air," "The Splendid Table," "Here and Now" and "All Things Considered" even on a short hop to the grocery store.

"The Splendid Table," to pick one, is about food, as the name would imply. It offers cooking tips, locations of good diners, wine recommendations and other gustatory tidbits.

Political rants are not on the menu. And that's the case with most NPR programming.

Maybe the critics are right, and it's finally time for NPR to walk away from the public trough. Maybe it should even consider turning to paid advertising as a source of income, though I dread that.

But, ultimately, we're not talking about much money by Washington standards: about $430 million a year. Cutting federal funding for public broadcasting wouldn't even put a scratch in the deficit.

This fight is not about money; it's about ideology. Republicans prevailed Thursday, but the bill is not likely to survive in the Senate.

And as this debate progresses, Republicans might want to ask themselves this: Can't I put up with a little liberal bias if I still get to listen to "Car Talk"?

James Werrell is the Rock Hill Herald's opinion page editor. He can be reached by e-mail at

House Votes to Defund National Public Radio

FOX News

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted 228-192 on a bill to defund National Public Radio, the vast public radio network whose leadership has been questioned after a series of executive decisions about programming, staffing and reporting bias.

Seven Republicans broke with House leadership and voted against the package. One GOP member, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, voted present.

Click here to see how your representative voted.

Though Republicans have been targeting NPR for months, in earnest after the firing last October of Fox News contributor Juan Williams, the charge to stop taxpayer cash from reaching NPR coffers was recently refueled by James O'Keefe. O'Keefe, the investigative reporter whose hidden camera expose led to the defunding of ACORN, recently captured on tape an ex-NPR executive calling Tea Party members gun-toting, racist, religious fanatics and saying the network doesn't really need federal money.

Opponents of government spending for NPR said the O'Keefe video was the last straw.

"Of all the data that we've seen, we still have not absorbed the culture of NPR until we saw the video" of that meeting, said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

NPR currently receives millions in indirect and direct funding to supply programming to hundreds of radio stations. But if the bill debated Thursday were to become law, the federal government would be prohibited from direct federal funding of NPR -- valued at $5 million in fiscal year 2010 -- and stations would be prohibited from using federal funds to pay NPR dues.

The legislation also bans public radio stations from using federal funds distributed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to purchase programming produced by NPR. Programming fees are the largest single source of NPR revenue, at $56 million in 2010's budget.

Current federal law requires approximately 26 percent of federal grants to public radio stations be used for the production or acquisition of programming. Stations can continue to receive federal grants for the production of their own programming, according to the bill.

In a statement of policy issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget before the vote, the Obama administration announced its opposition to defunding NPR but did not suggest a veto would be coming -- likely because the legislation would have to mount a tough hurdle to pass the Senate.

Nonetheless, the OMB said the bill would "unacceptably prohibit" the use of federal funding for public ratio station content purchases.

"The vast majority of (the Corporation for Public Broadcasting)'s funding for public radio goes to more than 700 stations across the country, many of them local stations serving communities that rely on them for access to news and public safety information. Undercutting funding for these radio stations, notably ones in rural areas where such outlets are already scarce, would result in communities losing valuable programming, and some stations could be forced to shut down altogether," the statement reads.

Thursday's back-and-forth on the House floor included discussion on the quality of content, the reach to rural communities with limited access to news and claims the cuts would not save taxpayer money. It also featured sarcasm-laced theatrics by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.

But opponents of cuts argued as well that the Republican majority failed to live up to its pledge to post the legislation online for three days prior to a vote.

"The majority is breaking its own rules on transparency to rush this bill to the floor before the American people have time to make their voices heard," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., founder of the bipartisan Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus.

The Sunlight Foundation issued a statement that the "Read the Bill" rule was "artfully evaded" by splitting the definition between hours and calendar days.

"Sunlight has advocated using a '72-hour' time frame instead of three calendar days to prevent possible gamesmanship," the group said.

Blumenauer also argued that polls show a vast majority of Americans want funding for public broadcasting to remain in place.

"This bill clearly goes against their wishes," he said.

On March 1, PBS released a poll it had commissioned from Hart Research and American Viewpoint that showed 69-27 percent opposition to proposals to eliminate government funding of public broadcasting, with voters 83 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents, and 56 percent of Republicans saying they don't want it defunded.

While the House spent several hours of its afternoon debating the legislation, the Democratic-led Senate is unlikely ever to bring up the measure for a vote.

America Revealed Fascist Tracker:
The 14 points of Fascism

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2.Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5.Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6.Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7.Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8.Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9.Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10.Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12.Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to co

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