Should NPR Be Taxpayer Subsidized?
Conservatives were outraged because they have long held that NPR is a thinly veiled far-left leaning news organization that receives nearly half a billion dollars a year in taxpayer money. They believe NPR has been unhappy about Juan Williams appearing on the Fox News Network for years, and this was an excuse to fire him. This is a fact that Juan Williams later confirmed. It wasn’t hard for conservative pundits to prove they had a point either. Of nineteen NPR commentators, eighteen are liberals, and one is a moderate. There isn’t one single conservative voice on the payroll of the taxpayer subsidized National Public Radio. And conservatives have been having a real field day with it right before a major election.
And another question looms in the minds of many. Do we really need National Public Radio in today’s world, or has the internet, satellite radio, cable news, web news sites, and the blogosphere rendered it as obsolete as the Sony Walkman, which coincidentally, just went out of production this week?
There’s serious talk amongst Republicans to seek to defund NPR, and support is growing to do just that. Let NPR sink or swim on their own merits, without the taxpayer safety net, based on the quality of the programming they produce alone just like every other radio station and news outlet in America. If the product is something Americans want, they will continue to support it, and NPR will continue to thrive. If not, the American taxpayers just saved half a billion dollars a year on something that only represents the views of a small percentage of them.
I don’t agree with defunding NPR. I listen to public radio. They do a good job covering stories cable news and mainstream media don’t cover at all. I think at the very least their CEO should be canned without question, and I think if taxpayers are supporting it, in full or in part, its commentators should be a more representative voice of the American people. They should add conservative voices in the discourse. It would make the programming more interesting, and more people would listen. This is the very reason Air America failed—there was no diversity in the conversation. It was a collection of liberal commentators that all agreed with each other, took calls from liberals that also agreed with everything they said, and they all patted each other on the back every day, 24 hours a day, until it was so uninteresting advertisers stopped advertising, and even liberals quit listening. It folded up like a cheap umbrella.
Conversation is important—many voices coming together and talking. Our media has become too one-sided. I heard a conservative talk show personality say the other day that the worst thing that could happen to their industry is if the national media lost all their bias and started reporting both sides of the stories. According to him, the reason conservative talk radio is so popular is that it’s the only place conservatives can hear the other side of the story—and they tune in by the millions every day. Might be the reason Fox News dominates as their competitors face difficult choices due to poor ratings. This disconnect might also be the reason for what looks like is going to be a very good election for conservatives—two years after MSNBC declared conservatism dead.
Politicians in this election are about to learn a lesson NPR and the national media needs to learn too. You can’t simply ignore and disregard the fact that some people don’t agree with you. You only learn by listening to other voices. Many career politicians will go down next Tuesday, and if the media doesn’t learn soon, they’ll face the same judgment. When you’re in the public eye either serving the public or reporting the news to the public, you can’t just preach to the choir. You’ve got to reach the whole congregation. If we don’t learn that lesson, we’ll never be the post-partisan America we all thought we were heading towards just a couple years ago. We’ll always be divided, and nobody benefits from division.