Budget Talk

By: Chris Cummins
Staff Writer

National Public Radio (NPR) has been a favorite target of conservative critics over the years, mostly due to the radio network’s perceived bias, and its (supposed) liberal audience.
Throughout the ‘80s, and for a brief time during the George W. Bush Administration, GOP leaders repeatedly attempted to cut funding to the government’s foray into public media, but were rebuffed, and rightly so, by stiff Democratic opposition. However, as the first week of March unfolded, it soon became clear that the calls to strip NPR from the public budget would neither become simpler to disprove nor easier to refuse. A conservative activist, James O’Keefe, most known for his elaborate and on-camera “sting” operations, struck again.

Posing as a member of a Muslim group mulling over donating to NPR, O’Keefe caught NPR executives Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley on camera at a Georgetown luncheon, during which they espoused the same liberal ideals they had been so long accused of holding and, among other things, denigrated the Tea Party movement as racist, insulted Middle America, sat silent while Israel was roundly criticized and generally seemed to excel in exemplifying the elitist East Coast liberal that NPR has so long been accused of cultivating. However, after further investigation, it seemed that the video, and O’Keefe, had long been accused of shoddy journalism, and this particular piece was no different.
The video has already drawn criticism from many news organizations, both conservative and liberal, for being heavily edited, skewed and generally standing in hazy ethical grounds. In fact, TheBlaze.com, a right wing news source affiliated with Glenn Beck, even criticized the piece, calling it unethical journalism.
Now, public funding for NPR, never a sure thing in an era of Republican administration, looks to be on a thin edge. Already, the Republican controlled House has passed a bill cutting funding for the troubled network, with the bill passing on a strictly partisan vote, 228 to 192, and both Republicans and Democrats sticking to party lines, with every single Democrat voting against, and all Republicans save seven voting for.

Indeed, one begins to wonder whether NPR would even benefit from the break in government funding. After all, NPR receives only 10% percent of its budget from the federal government, and of that, all of the money is in the form of grants. Now, Ron Schiller is gone, fired by a nervous NPR, already under fire for it’s firing of conservative critic Juan Williams, and so is his boss, Vivian Schiller (no relation).
Right now, it almost seems as if the best thing for NPR would be to cut ties with the federal government, and end the constant barrage of attacks by conservative critics whenever the federal budget approaches insolvency.
The conservative outrage, the constant calls for defunding and, most importantly, the ever-present shadow of defunding made real by a Republican administration, would be made irrelevant by its privatization. This may not be possible, nor even desired by NPR staff and executives, but it still would be a solution to the perennial problem of NPR’s perceived bias, and the constant tug of war that takes place between liberal and conservative interests whenever NPR is mentioned.