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NPR woes escalate as House votes to strip its federal funding

The GOP-led House, determined to trim spending and emboldened by NPR's recent black eyes, voted Thursday to end NPR's federal funding. Under the bill, no public radio stations could use taxpayer dollars to buy NPR programs.

By Staff writer / March 17, 2011

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to eliminate NPR's federal funding – and to prohibit public radio stations from using taxpayer money to pay NPR dues or to buy NPR programs.

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor

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Los Angeles

Congress dealt a setback to public broadcasting Thursday, approving in two separate votes funding cuts that conservatives, in particular, have long sought.

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The House voted Thursday to eliminate NPR's federal funding – and to prohibit public radio stations from using taxpayer money to pay NPR dues or to buy NPR programs. At the same time, the Senate approved a three-week budget resolution that includes a $50 million cut to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, parent of NPR and PBS.

Neither move will cripple public broadcasting. The House bill – which would deliver a big punch to NPR – has yet to come before the Democratic-controlled Senate, and is not likely to. The Senate action does mean less money for CPB, but it's a short-term cut, so far.

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Still, it's clear that efforts to whittle – or ax – taxpayer support for public broadcasting are escalating in the new Congress, and that House Republicans are emboldened by the need to cut the $1.7 trillion US deficit and by resurgent charges that NPR coverage has a liberal bias.

Thursday moves are another shot across the bow of a news organization that through the years has come under regular attack from the right – starting with President Richard Nixon, who in 1973 vetoed CPB funding out of a conviction that programs such as PBS’s “Washington Week in Review” were biased against him. They also keep alive the debate over the value of public broadcasting today.

Proponents of the House bill hammered home the message that amid a fiscal crisis, the US cannot afford to pour money into what Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) of Tennessee characterized as an outpost for wealthy elites. "It's time to get NPR out of the taxpayer's pocket," she said during the debate. She echoed a point made recently by Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “When presidents of government-funded broadcasting are making more than the president of the United States, it’s time to get the government out of public broadcasting,” he wrote.

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