Taxpayer Funding of the “Liberal Press”

Full disclosure – I am a proud member of two PBS radio stations in the Philadelphia region. Despite the fact that my family struggles with finances every year, support for commercial-free public broadcasting is important enough for us to open our bank account each year to support their operating expenses.

I have to give kudos to Kevin Hassett, director of public policy at the Conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, for his column on the merits of taxpayer support for some Public Broadcasting initiatives but a total recall of funding for others. He acknowledges that PBS programs such as Sesame Street have done a great deal in the realm of educational programming that serves a public good for all children at all economic levels. However, he then goes on to say that funding for National Public Radio (NPR), PBS, and American Public Media (APM) only goes to support the “Liberal leanings” of these news organizations, and that public funding should have no place in supporting media bias, no matter what its leanings. He goes on to cite the recent embarrassment suffered last week by a former NPR executive as evidence of the supposed contagion of Liberal activism that is part of NPR's overall mission. Of course Mr. Hassett fails to actually reference nor research the story and instead simply uses it to prove his point. Perhaps he should have read my last column to see that the merits of the accuser are even more questionable than that of the accused.

The next time you sit down to listen to Glen or Rush, count the number of commercials that get airplay within a single hour of broadcasting. To make the exercise more interesting, write down the names of the companies, politicians, Political Action Committees, and Interest Groups that purchased time on the show. Also note, that each sponsor is entitled to 30 to 60 seconds of uninterrupted, high-production airtime to speak their own biased message while Glen or Rush have the time to run off to the potty. Finally, note that should Glen or Rush say anything that goes against the interests of any of their sponsors, that sponsorship will likely be gone within 24 hours.

Now take an hour to listen to NPR. To make it interesting, listen during the same time slots as Glen and Rush. Corporate sponsors don't air full-length commercials on NPR; at the most they get 15 seconds to state their company's mission or vision statement and how happy they are to support the station. The rest of airtime is devoted to actually broadcasting the show. In other words, they spend a LOT more time on actual content to give listeners the most complete story they can. If they air a story that involves one of their corporate underwriters, they disclose that fact before they get into the story in order to alert the listener that there is no conflict of interest.

The Conservative media is self-sustaining because they represent the interests of the Corporate elite. To put it another way, the Corporate Dictatorship that has successfully built our Military Industrial Complex, trampled on the rights of the poor, stripped the Middle Class of its financial security, and bankrupted the Federal Government through unsustainable military spending and lax financial regulations are proud to bring you the idealistic rantings of popular media figures whose only aim is to spread fear and mistrust among our neighbors so that the Corporate Elite can go on raping our natural resources and stripping what's left of our Liberty uninterrupted and unquestioned. If you doubt it, listen and take notes on the actual stories themselves by using the following matrix.

Place a “checkmark” in each box as you listen to each program.

Item

Glen, Rush, or other Conservative media

NPR

Number of Commercials and/or Corporate “plugs”. Note the total number of minutes devoted to the show's sponsors.

Story or commentary that seeks to expose “hypocrisy” of an individual (i.e. politician, celebrity, etc.)

Story or commentary that represents the interest of a specific sponsor (Corporate or Political).

Story or commentary about sex or celebrity misbehavior.

Interview where the person being interviewed was not interrupted by the interviewer.

Story or commentary that explores abuse of power by those with authority without jumping to conclusions regarding the guilt or innocence of the person in question.

Story or commentary that explores ways that listeners can make good decisions regarding their health, families or finances.

Story or commentary that consumes more than six minutes of uninterrupted airtime and presents more than one point of view.

NPR works hard to represent the interests of you and I. Through quarterly “beg-a-thons” they remind their listeners that if you want a media outlet that will listen and respond to what you want to know, they need your support in order to do it. Yes, they have corporate sponsors and yes they get a little taxpayer funding, but most of the funding comes from their member listeners. In major metropolitan areas, this model is sustainable as there are more than enough active listeners to keep a station going. Where the Federal funding comes into play are in rural media markets where there are not enough listeners to sustain the local NPR station. Those stations could “go commercial” in order to stay on the air, but what happens to NPR's mission of balanced and commercial-free news coverage should that happen?

If Federal Funding goes away for NPR, it will probably survive for a while. There are enough of us out there that will refuse to let it die by stepping up our contributions to our local stations. Where we won't be able to help are in those markets where there aren't enough of us to support the stations. Those markets will belong to the Conservative media, and they like it that way. Without any voice to counter the Corporate media message, their word will become the only acceptable truth.

A lie is only a lie if someone says it isn't so. Without dissent, a lie repeated becomes the truth.


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