The GOP wants to defund public broadcasting and some say the network would be better off without it anyway. Image: Roadside Guitars/Flickr

Federal funding for National Public Radio has become a favorite target of House Republicans using budget cuts to attack programs they don’t like. The recent video entrapment of an NPR official by right wing activist James O’Keefe has further spiced up the debate. But NPR actually gets very little of its operating budget from government funding.

Right wing targets public broadcasting

House Republicans want to put government funding for NPR on the chopping block. Conservatives feel this stance was validated after O’Keefe secretly filmed senior NPR fundraiser Jon Schiller badmouthing the Tea Party. Schiller also said NPR would be better off without federal funding. The “video sting” led Schiller’s wife, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, to resign in hopes it would ease pressure to defund public broadcasting. Shortly after the 2010 election, House Republicans voted in unison to pass legislation eliminating all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB oversees the Public Broadcasting Service television network and NPR. The CPB gets government funding in two-year commitments. Rep Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., wrote the bill that would eliminate all government funding for public radio and TV starting in fiscal year 2013.

NPR doesn’t depend on federal funds

When it comes to federal funding for the CPB, a private, non-profit organization, the government actually spends more every year supporting military marching bands. The CPB will get $430 million this year and a slight increase in 2012. Most of that money — 75 percent — goes to local public TV stations. NPR gets 2 percent of its revenue from the CPB and federal agencies such as the Department of Education. The network gets 22 percent of its revenue from corporate sponsorships. NPR gets 36 percent of its revenue from member stations who pay NPR for programs like All Things Considered. Local public radio stations get about 10 percent of their revenue from the CPB. They have to raise the rest of the money themselves. Pulling government funding would have very little effect on NPR. But it would hurt local public radio and television stations.

Why NPR could be better off without federal funding

NPR argues to preserve government funding because of pressure from local member stations, which make up most of its board. Many analysts agree with Schiller that NPR would be better off without the political pressure and partisan strings that come attached to federal funding. As a network, NPR is distributed online, which is the future of radio distribution. The value of local member stations as distributors has been rapidly diminishing and will eventually be nil. Plus, without the ball and chain of government funding, NPR would no longer have to make decisions based on political correctness.


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