Mar 16, 2011

House targets NPR funds in divide-and-conquer move

House Republicans wanted to end funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which stakes public radio and television stations around the country, in addition to giving funds directly to NPR and PBS (two-thirds of CPB money goes to public television).

The slow grind of the budget process and resistance from the Democratically controlled Senate have thus far made a complete gutting of CPB impossible. So, the GOP has a new strategy, with Republicans in the House planning an "emergency" vote to cut only the funds that go to NPR and its affiliate stations (this includes KCRW, of which I am an employee). The bill must first go through Rep. David Dreier's Rules Committee. That vote is scheduled for today.

The James O'Keefe heavily edited sting video of Ron Schiller is the impetus for the new strategy. By stripping PBS out of the fight, Republicans hope to peel off the more powerful public broadcasting lobby in Washington. It will be interesting to see whether public television folks will continue to stand with NPR given the embarrassing foot shooting NPR execs have done in recent months.

All of which puts an even uglier spin on David Carr's recent story noting the successes of NPR in a world of shrinking news:
According to the State of the Media report, NPR’s overall audience grew 3 percent in 2010, to 27.2 million weekly listeners, up 58 percent overall since 2000. In the last year, total staff grew 8 percent, and its Web site,, drew an average of 15.7 million unique monthly visitors, up more than five million visitors. Its foreign bureaus and global footprint continue to grow while other broadcasters slink home. 
And while NPR receives a small portion of its operating budget through government money, millions of people also think that its journalism is worthy enough to pay for through contributions, a trick that the rest of news media have had trouble figuring out, to say the least. 
Trouble is, NPR has often been better at breaking news than running a news outlet. The current problems started five months ago when Juan Williams, a longtime NPR commentator, was hastily fired for remarks he made about Muslims making him fearful in airports. Then in January, Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news, resigned after a report to the board found her management of the affair wanting.

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