Friday, October 22, 2010

The Beginning of the End of NPR

When I heard that Juan Williams had lost his job at National Public Radio for a comment he made on Fox News, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a VIP at NPR. It was about a decade ago, during the last time the Palestinians were blowing up civilians in Israel.

"I listen to NPR all the time," I told him. "Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that NPR's news reports are, over all, pro-Palestinian? Am I imagining this? I never hear about the suffering of the Israelis, just the Palestinians."

He thought for a moment and said: "No. I don't think you are imagining it. I think you are right. At NPR we're always rooting for the underdog."

I was blown away by this conversation. NPR was "rooting" for Palestinian terrorists who were intentionally blowing up Jews, as "the underdogs"?

That was the first time I questioned the need for taxpayer funding of Public Broadcasting, which, by the way, I listen to and watch all the time. And (disclosure here) have free-lanced for with great pleasure. That time, the question stayed in my mind.

The second time I questioned the need for taxpayer funding of Public Broadcasting was in an opinion piece I wrote for the Orlando Sentinel. I wrote, since it is next to impossible to operate a broadcasting outlet without making a profit, it was time for taxpayers to cut Public Broadcasting loose. Shows like "Prairie Home Companion" and documentaries by Ken Burns have made their producers wealthy. Why should we subsidize them?

I also pointed out some of the slants I saw in their news and programming, and the fact that most of their programming does not originate with them. I suggested they enter the marketplace with every other broadcasting outlet.

It was not an attack on Public Broadcasting. It was my opinion that taxpayers should stop funding it. CPB always says they don't really get that much money from the taxpayers anyway.

Whoo. Did I ever step in it! All of a sudden I was accused of trying to drown Big Bird.

My article provoked a big reaction from the Public Broadcasting lobby and I was banned from the Sentinel's opinion pages. For giving my opinion. "Just lie low," the editor told me. "We're taking nothing but heat."

That was when I learned what a sacred cow Public Broadcasting is.

Now that NPR has caused an uproar of its own with its firing of Juan Williams, I think we will see the end of its federal subsidies.

Their budget is a tiny little drop in the bucket of the trillions of dollars the U.S. is in debt But it is time for austerity in America's budget so every dollar will count. I think members of Congress will find it wise to get the American taxpayer out of the broadcasting business.

And I think the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will find it wise to agree.

CPB and PBS and NPR will be able to do a much better job of supporting themselves than taking taxpayer dollars. And when NPR reporters turn out to be rooting for Palestinians or political correctness or anything or anybody else, at least all of us can shrug and say to ourselves: hey, knock yourself out! That is between your organization and your sponsors. Which it always has been. CPB has simply convinced itself otherwise.

Some of their money comes from the anonymous trough of taxpayer dollars, and CPB wrongly thought this provided it with a huge penumbra of insulation.

That, I believe, is what fostered such wrong-minded thinking as purposely slanted reporting. It also fostered the kind of thinking that would fire Juan Williams for making a remark NPR executives didn't think was politically correct. (By the way, I thought what Juan Williams said was odd: Muslims in Middle Eastern garb on an airplane aren't the guys to worry about!)

Okay. I think now CPB and PBS and NPR can move forward and show us all how they can make it on their own.

I will still be listening and watching. I will still have lots of friends there: some of whom share my opinions and some of whom do not. But I won't be subsidizing them. At least I hope not.

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