Friday, March 11, 2011

Why NPR Is Its Own Worst Enemy

It is beyond clear that National Public Radio is its worst enemy.

No, it's not because NPR is "too liberal," as its conservative Republican critics claim with numbing frequency. If doing hard-hitting investigative pieces and going well
beyond sound bites in covering the major stories of the day are "too liberal," so be it. The finest American news media outlets have been doing that every thing since forever.

But there is a big difference between NPR and its news media brethren: It accepts money from the federal government and that makes it an easy target for those conservative critics. Oh, and its executives are gutless.

The latest effort to defund NPR of taxpayer money is courtesy of that pathology, in this case comments by a former NPR executive disparaging conservative groups, including the Tea Party, at a fundraising meeting that were secretly taped by James O'Keefe, a notorious conservative scam artist. When the tape inevitably came to light, NPR didn't defend itself; it's scaredy cat board merely sacked Vivian Schuller, its CEO.

This, of course, famously follows an incident in which NPR commentator Juan
Williams, who also worked for Fox News, said on that conservative channel that he feared people wearing Muslim garb on airlines. This candid if politically correct comment not only got Williams axed from NPR, but it cost his boss, NPR executive Ellen Weiss, her job.

The reason given in both cases was that the controversies "had become a distraction," while NPR ombundsman Alicia Shepard because a distraction herself, writing in an essay "
Doesn’t anyone in NPR's top management think of the consequences before they act?"

If you are laboring under the impression that NPR affiliates would go silent without government funding, then you've been listening to ads running on affiliate stations implying just that.

That is a nifty, if inaccurate piece of propaganda since NPR gets a mere 2 percent of its direct funding from the government through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its local affiliate stations get 6 percent from CPB.

NPR and its affiliate stations attract a healthy 120 million listeners and for many communities an NPR affiliate is the only source of local news, so the solution is obvious: NPR execs need to grow balls in general, rearrange their funding stream a bit and cut the apron strings with Congress instead of peeing their pants every time a conservative Republican runs up the battle flag and threatens to "zero out" its funding.

1 comment:

John Freeland said...

"cut the apron strings," indeed. Seems like a very small price to pay for editorial freedom.