(Sen. Jim DeMint) – At a time when Congress is scrambling for ideas to cut spending, National Public Radio has helpfully stepped up to the chopping block.
Publicly funded media is supposed to provide politically balanced content, but NPR’s decision to fire longtime analyst Juan Williams proves the only free speech NPR supports is liberal speech with which they agree.
NPR terminated Williams’ contract because he said he feels nervous when Muslims wear their garb on airplanes, hardly an inflammatory statement. Yet, commentators, analysts and reporters at NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service have a long history of making far more offensive declarations about Christians, conservatives and Republicans.
During a 1995 edition of “All Things Considered,” NPR contributor Andrei Codrescu stated the world would be a better place if Christians who believe in rapture disappeared. “The evaporation of four million people who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place,” he said.
The same year, NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg said on the television program “Inside Washington,” “If there’s any retributive justice, he’ll [former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms] get AIDS from a transfusion or one of his grandchildren will get it.” PBS host Bill Moyer described Republicans as “the right-wing Taliban” in a March 2001 speech at the National Press Club.
In 2009, NPR posted an insulting cartoon on its Web site that smeared members of the Tea Party called “Learn to Speak Tea Bag.” Last March, Senior News Analyst Cokie Roberts co-wrote a column that said Fox News host Glenn Beck is “like a terrorist who believes he has discovered the One True Faith, and condemns everyone else as a heretic. And that makes him something else as well — a traitor to the American values he professes so loudly to defend.”
All of these people still work for NPR and PBS, entities subsidized by the taxpayer through Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Taxpayer support for CPB has grown considerably over the years. In 1969, CPB received $5 million a year. In 2010, it received $420 million. And, CPB officials have said they need even more funding in the future because of the toll the economic downturn has taken on their member stations.
They have requested $604 million for fiscal 2013. But, most businesses and families have been forced to cut their budgets because of the poor economy. CPB should too.
Both National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service claim only a small portion of their overall budget comes from the taxpayer. That means they should be able to do without taxpayer support.
As Mr. Williams said after his abrupt dismissal, “They don’t need public funds. I think that they should go out there. They think their product is so great, go out and sell the product.”
NPR certainly did a good job selling itself to liberal financier George Soros. The same day Williams was fired, NPR announced it had accepted $1.8 million from Soros’ Open Society Foundation to hire 100 reporters.
Accepting such significant donation from Soros compromises NPR’s proclaimed objectivity. It’s going to be awfully hard for NPR reporters to provide fair political coverage — especially about other group Soros funds, such as MoveOn.Org, Media Matters or Young Democrats of America — when he is paying their salary.
Without a doubt, supporters of state-sanctioned media will squeal at any attempt to cut funding for CPB. They’ll say it will destroy children’s programming and the arts. Not true.
Shows like “Sesame Street” are thriving, multimillion-dollar enterprises. According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, “Sesame Street” made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales. Big Bird will be just fine without his federal subsidies.
Publicly funded media has no place in our modern, tech-savvy society. CPB was created by the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act to “facilitate the development of public telecommunications.” Only a handful of television channels existed. More than 30 years later, Americans have thousands of choices in news, entertainment and educational programming provided by innumerable television, radio and Web outlets.
There is simply no need to fund CPB and subsidize NPR and PBS in the year 2010.
The country is more than $13 trillion in debt and Americans deserve a smaller, more affordable government. Taxpayers are sick of getting stuck with the tab for needless programs. In the age of satellite TV and radio, Internet, and video on demand, subsidies for public broadcasting shouldn’t be part of their bill.
(Jim DeMint is a senator from South Carolina)