Feb 2011 16

by Damon Martin

“Can you tell me how to get…how to get to Sesame Street?”

According to the Republicans if you’re following Big Bird, you’re following a leftist liberal who will walk you straight into an abortion clinic while asking for government handouts.

Okay, yes that’s a bit extreme, but Republicans have once again set their sites on cutting spending within the government, while looking in all the wrong places. Much like the Republican House of Representatives before them, the newest legislature has again targeted the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for elimination, proposing to cut all funds supplied by the Federal Government.

The GOP led House released a budget aimed at slashing Federal spending by $100 billion in 2011, while eliminating funds for programs like the CPB, which in turns trickles down to agencies like National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), not to mention cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Among other things, NPR is a news agency that provides programming available to over 32 million listeners throughout the United States, and has been voted the most trusted news source in America. Created as an unbiased news vehicle, NPR has provided coverage of major news events for over 40 years, and continues to provide programming to stations all across America.

While Republicans have long targeted the CPB in their budget cuts, recent efforts have intensified after NPR employee Juan Willaims was fired from the company after making controversial remarks while appearing on Fox News. Williams was in a discussion about Muslims and said that when he sees Muslims on a plane “I get worried. I get nervous.”

The comments resulted in Williams’ dismissal from NPR. Soon after, Republican Mike Huckabee called for the government to cut funding to the NPR because “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left.”

Huckabee went on to say that he “will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it is a form of censorship.”

Following his dismissal from NPR, Williams went on to sign a $2 million dollar deal with Fox News. Huckabee meanwhile continues his campaign to make NPR’s federal funding disappear.

Organizations around the United States, aware of the GOP’s plan to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, immediately started to get people to sign petitions in support of National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service. collected more than 400,000 signatures in a matter of days, which they presented to the government on behalf of those supporting the continued work of NPR and PBS.

To drill down exactly what the funding does, it’s easier to understand when talking at the human level as we did with Jennifer Ferro, General Manager for KCRW in Los Angeles, whose station is funded in part by money given to the CPB.

“Federal funding is one of three main funding sources for KCRW and all other public radio stations. The sources are: membership, underwriting (corporate and other business sponsors) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB funding amounts to 9% of our operating budget — $1.2 million a year,” Ferro explained.

“If we were to lose this source we would have to make up $1 million dollars each year from somewhere. This is a lot of money and, if not found, would result in a paring back of our operations. At KCRW we make programming and also invest in the infrastructure to distribute the programming (over the air, in the digital space like mobile apps and web streams, and in person.)”

In a time in which many American companies are in decline or starting over from scratch, stations like KCRW are actually expanding and creating new jobs. Something that is aided with the money given to them through the Federal funding of the CPB. If that goes away, Ferro says, so do opportunities to expand.

“KCRW is in a growth phase. We’re investing more in creating new programming and finding new voices to feature. To lose $1 million each year from our operating budget means putting all that innovation and programming on hold as well as reducing the amount of stuff we do each day,” Ferro said.

“The reason this threat is different is that it has two life forces. One of them is political, no doubt, and is making NPR a target. The other force is deficit reduction. Even though CPB funding makes up .0001% of the federal budget, many programs will have to justify why they should keep their funding.”

President Obama did support the groups in his budget released on Monday, in which funding to the CPB included $445 million in general programming grants from 2012 to 2014, up from $430 million in 2011. but the Republicans have continued to push forward their spending curve, and on Tuesday reports surfaced that the President may go as far as vetoing the GOP budget if need be.

It appears for now that the CPB is safe, but that doesn’t mean Republicans won’t once again target the funding for proposed cuts. Missed in much of their budget – and Obama’s for that matter – are areas of massive (0ver) spending, which can more easily be trimmed.

How about starting with the budget for defense, which will actually increase by 1.5% under Obama’s new budget. Should we really be increasing funds for defense, when we already spend 5 times more on it than any other country in the world? By the way, the reporting and analysis on the budget comes courtesy of the NPR.


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