Defunding NPR– Public Radio Should not be Pay to Play?

When I heard all the uproar about the House resolution to defund National Public Radio (NPR) I thought what is the fuss about? I contribute to a lot of public institutions? Public schools, public libraries, public hospitals and yes even public radio, things we pay for in some small way, even if we never have the occasion to utilize them. Is this debate really about the federal government’s less than 2 percent contribution to NPR’s annual budget? 
I don’t think so. This is about the right to fund your own voice. Advocates of NPR’s defunding are arguing that if you want the right to say what you want then you shouldn’t’ use public funds to do it.  This “pay to play” theory is elitist and divisive. Whether I have a child who is a student in a public school or not, I support funding education that teaches our future scientists and senators; whether I have to go to a public library to use a computer or read a book, I am grateful that it is a staple in neighborhoods that value that resource; and whether I ever have to be rushed to a public hospital, I financially support them saving the lives of those who do not have a choice. This is absolutely not about what our federal government pays for—in fact, I am pretty sure I don’t want to know all the things that government pays for no doubt it includes subversive intelligence fact finding missions that are better kept secret.
This is yet another GOP rock thrown into the playground of political distraction. I am sure when NPR hired Juan Williams in 2000 they had a hint of his political leanings and they weren’t “too” liberal to hire him. Maybe they understood the diversity of their listeners and wanted to offer a conservative perspective. And yes, maybe they understood the financial benefit of expanding their listening audience. Whatever the case, defunding NPR has made it to the Senate because of comments by a former employee on hidden camera and because of the mangled firing of Juan Williams. The harsh reality is that politics has made its way to my car radio. I know that there are also public television stations but since Juan Williams was fired from NPR radio and that seemed to be the impetus for the latest attacks, I have chosen to focus on public radio.
For me, there is something about the word “public” that invites inclusion and endorses tolerance. Public radio has offered listeners a chance to hear the voices of those who might otherwise not have been heard. Local stations from Santa Monica to Newark are valuable community information resources. While I can always see a popular mainstream blockbuster movie, I have a certain affinity for independent films that give voice to the vision of those on the outside. I guess that is what public radio is to me. It is the voice and conscience of so many on the outside.  
While it is widely believed that the NPR defunding bill will not make it through the Senate, considering Senate Democrats and White House objections to it, the static noise has called into question the journalistic integrity and role of public radio in this current political environment. We remember how conservative radio mobilized their listeners in 2007 in preparation for the 2008 vote. While the election didn’t garner them their desired results, the tool was effective.  So why the attacks on NPR now? Maybe it is the 33 million weekly listeners in the year before an election.
Beverly Isom
Blogging While Blue

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