NPR and the Liberal Subculture that Worships It
The federal government needs to reduce spending. But, where do you start? A good place to start is by looking at eliminating programs that that few can complain about being dropped. No one loses any benefits, people can’t claim kids are going to bed hungry, etc. A non-controversial program cut would appear to be public broadcasting. If it ever had a purpose, it is long past with cable and satellite television, XM radio and the Internet.
Public broadcasting serves a very small elitist segment of society. Its listeners/viewers are typically upscale and could well afford subscription radio or television. Yet, liberals view liberal radio and television whose funding is supplemented by the taxpayers as their entitlement. Perhaps the black eye public broadcasting has received because of Juan Williams firing can provide the impetus to de-fund public broadcasting. After all, it we have to suffer through Beta Prostrate and Lifelock commercials during Rush Limbaugh shouldn’t liberals be subjected to Midol commercials during their programs?
Juan Williams’s recent firing from NPR has occasioned yet another in the perennial series of arguments about the public radio network and whether it should or should not continue to be government funded. The debate so far, it must be admitted, has not been an edifying one, consisting mostly of the regurgitation of clichés.
At The Daily Beast, itself a formidable organ of the liberal establishment, Peter Beinart provided an excellent example of this, writing that “NPR is elitist, and it’s a good thing too” before trotting out almost every cliché NPR’s defenders have ever employed in defense of the network. “The people who run the station,” he writes, “believe that Americans should know more about what is happening in China and less about what is happening to Britney Spears, which in today’s media makes them downright subversive.” As proof of this, Beinart claims that “NPR now has 17 foreign bureaus compared to four for CBS,” and “NPR devotes 21 percent of its airtime to international news compared to 1 percent for commercial talk radio.”
Needless to say, these are not particularly helpful arguments. One is little more than openly acknowledged snobbery, and the other appears to make the bizarre claim that more coverage by definition equals better coverage, as if a patient were more likely to survive surgery with ten doctors in the operating room instead of one. Given the ready availability online of translated foreign media, moreover, one wonders why those interested would require their news filtered through an American radio network in the first place.
Beinart does, however, do us the service of reiterating NPR’s most beloved talking point: “NPR doesn’t get a lot of public money.” This endlessly repeated assertion is apparently so important that it appears on NPR’s own website, where it features prominently in the ombudsman’s frequently asked questions page. “NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government,” the network states. This begs the question, of course, of why — if the public money it receives is so minor — NPR and its defenders fight so ferociously to retain it.
The answer appears to be hiding in plain sight, in the networks admission that:
Approximately half of NPR’s funding comes from NPR member stations. In an average year, NPR funds about 45 percent of its operations with membership dues and program fees from member stations.
These member stations are, in turn, subsidized by local, state, and federal tax dollars. The manner in which NPR receives public funding appears, therefore, to be akin to that long-practiced method which in other contexts is known as “money laundering.” Indeed, one imagines there are drug cartels that run more honest operations.
None of this, however, makes or will make much difference to NPR’s core audience, and it is not too difficult to understand why. Put simply, NPR is for coastal liberals what Rush Limbaugh is for heartland conservatives: a means of relating to the world from within the confines of a specific subculture. The difference, of course, is that Limbaugh’s admirers do not force others to pay for it.
Hat tip: Benjamin Kerstein/Pajamas Media