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The Republicans Try to Kill National Public Radio (Again)
02/04/2017 Budget Seth L
keywords: NPR Funding

In a move reminiscent of similar attempts he's made in the past, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) introduced a bill, H.R. 726, that would prohibit the federal government from funding both the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and National Public Radio (NPR), perennial targets of Congressional Republicans in their quest to cut spending.

"Republicans and the new Administration need to demonstrate that we take our fiscal responsibility seriously,” a statement from Lamborn read. “American taxpayers do not want their hard-earned dollars funding superfluous government programs just because that is the way things have always been done." Lamborn said that the CPB receives about $445 million annually, and this money "could be put to better use rebuilding our military and enhancing our national security." The CPB provides some funds for NPR.

Even though Lamborn claims he's a "fan of some NPR programs," he says, "I am totally convinced in a free market where you did not inject taxpayer subsidies, the programming would stand on its own two feet."

The CPB described federal money as critical to its mission. "The federal investment in public media is vital seed money — especially for stations located in rural America and those serving underserved populations where the appropriation counts for 40 to 50 percent of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect. These stations would have to raise approximately 200 percent more in private donations to replace the federal investment," the CPB stated. For its part, NPR released a statement that read in part, "Millions of Americans depend on their local public radio station for the fact-based, unbiased, public service journalism they need to stay informed about the world and about the news in their own communities. Federal funding is essential to making that happen."

Matt Wood, the policy director of media advocacy organization Free Press, says the tone of public media such as NPR could change if it has to be supported by corporate sponsors rather than public funds. "That takes the public out of public broadcasting," said Wood. "I think it would almost undeniably force them more toward a commercial and corporate approach."

The House had voted to redirect NPR's funds in 2011 after a video "sting" operation run by filmmaker James O'Keefe of the nonprofit Project Veritas. O'Keefe captured a top NPR fundraiser on camera saying that he believed the network would be better off without federal help. The fundraiser later resigned from NPR. This was after the House had voted to cut funding for the organization totally in an earlier budget bill. Both measures died in the Senate.

An article in the Washington Post on January 19 of this year stated that spending on the CPB accounts for one-tenth of one percent of the total federal budget. Separately, a 2012 Pew Research Center study found that listeners to NPR skewed heavily liberal and Democratic.

Lamborn is hopeful that Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, as well as a Republican in the presidency, will result in better luck for his bill this time around.

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