Walker: Cut off NPR

Published November 11, 2010

We live in times when those who report the news have become the news.

Keith Olbermann and Juan Williams garnered national sympathy (or glee, for some) for their respective timeout (MSNBC) and firing (NPR). Now comes National Review with a report that National Public Radio has stacked the deck of its board of directors with … gasp! … liberals.

As a daily NPR listener who can even perform reasonably good impersonations of Corey Flintoff and Garrison Keillor, I don’t find that revelation surprising. Nor do I find it terribly dismaying. The time for the rending and tearing of garments because media outlets display favoritism of one worldview over another passed long ago. The horse has been out of the stable for decades, so we might was well continue to allow it free rein without feigning outrage. We get it: Fox leans right, and most other outlets tilt left.

What should give us pause, however, is that whereas Fox and most of the other fillies in the media stable are private enterprises, NPR is anything but. Its budget consists of government subsidies and tax-deductible donations from both corporations and individuals. In fact, liberal fat cat George Soros recently bequeathed $1.8 million of his personal fortune to NPR for the hiring of state-based reporters.

One can imagine the immense tax advantages of such a donation, not to mention the millions of dollars of tax write-offs enjoyed by corporations, businesses, and the thousands of NPR listeners “just like you.”

Likewise, it takes little imagination to suss out Soros’ main reason for generously supporting public radio. Much like Rupert Murdoch with Fox News, Soros is providing a bankroll for reporting biased toward his own political and social agenda.

The main difference, however, between Fox and its sister networks on one hand and NPR on the other is that the latter receives government subsidies. Taxpayer dollars, blended with Soros’ largesse and tax-deductible corporate monies and stirred by the 55 avowed liberals seated on the NPR board of directors—that’s a mighty potent cocktail.

Granted the funds NPR receives from the government are miniscule in comparison with other boondoggles, but the fact that our government subsidizes direct competition with other media outlets cannot be ignored. The loss of listeners and viewers suffered by privately owned media outlets with which it competes must factor into the costs incurred by public broadcasting.

The dismissal of Williams this past October once again raised calls for cutting government subsidies for the entire Corporation for Public Broadcasting enterprise. Cut these enterprises free from the government dole, many say, and allow them the privilege of reporting from whatever perspective their ideology dictates.

That’s the right call. NPR and other public broadcasting outlets should be allowed to succeed or fail based on their merits in the marketplace, not propped up by taxpayer dollars.

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Infotech & Telecom News.