Fence-Sitting: The Good And Bad Of Defunding Public Broadcasting - Eric Rhoads
Published: February 23, 2011 at 08:46 PM GMT
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Last Updated: February 23, 2011 at 08:46 PM GMT
By B. Eric Rhoads
One would think that, as a commercial broadcaster, I would look at the potential defunding of NPR as a good thing. After all, why should public broadcasting have the advantage of government funding when other broadcasters have to survive on our ability to sell advertising -- especially when it's tougher than ever to sell? Plus, that $430 million that goes to public radio and TV would go a long way to reduce the federal budget. One might also think my tendency to lean conservative in many things political would make me gung-ho to close NPR because of its left-leaning content.
I'm a fan of NPR and public radio. I listen to it for content that no commercial radio broadcaster is providing. You know -- the measured pace, the in-depth stories, the reporters in the field, the thought-provoking pieces. I think we need that option in America, though I believe it could be created by commercial radio (possibly for a lot less money).
I certainly don't support NPR's sometimes-skewed representation of opposing political views. But as a discerning adult, I like hearing viewpoints different from my own, and I'm able to make up my own mind. Frankly, I don't care if NPR is left-leaning, even if I'm not.
I'd hate to lose public broadcasting, and I'd rather find a way to preserve it than shutter it. But I'm willing to see NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting lose their funding if it helps get this country out of debt. As you can see, I'm sitting on the fence, and my reasons for not wanting NPR defunded may be different than those of others trying to save it.
NPR is being threatened with defunding because of its political point of view. No one seems to be trying to hide that fact. So if it is defunded, we can expect retaliation -- perhaps by way of renewed attacks on Talk radio and a revived "Fairness Doctrine"-- the next time the Democrats are in control of the House.
If public broadcasting were a target only for financial reasons, I'd be less impassioned to save it. But it's being targeted because of the politics of the people running it. That bugs me. Shutting down opposing viewpoints can never be a good idea.
Plus, as those of us in radio know, people are more personally attached to their favorite radio station than to their favorite TV station. And, frankly, I believe the assumption that only liberals like NPR is misguided. A significant portion of the NPR listener base is either Republican or Independent, and taking it away will merely create a political irritant.
But why does this have to be an all-or-nothing proposition? What about a hybrid solution?
One option is to put the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NPR on notice that they have three to five years to become 100 percent self-sufficient. They'd get a little less government money each year, leading up to a cutoff date. That would allow time for them to gain more major benefactors, and time to reinvent the way they do business and trim their operating budgets with new technology.
Though there is an outcry to save every agency being threatened with cuts, my guess is that public radio and TV have a large enough fan base that even if the government slashes their funding, they won't die. There are millions of us who have never picked up the phone and given money because we knew our taxes were playing that role. More people will chime in when they face the potential loss.
My bottom line, though, is that we need to discourage politicians from doing anything that squelches opposing points of view. If that's the primary reason to defund public broadcasting, it's not good enough.
B. Eric Rhoads is CEO of Streamline Publishing, Inc. Rhoads writes regular columns for his publications and is an active blogger in the radio and art industries, including Radio Ink Tank, Artist Marketing, and Blue Chip Gallery Marketing. He is an active speaker, consultant, and advocate in the radio, art, and technology industries, and he sits on a number of advisory boards. Eric can be reached at eric@RadioInk.com.
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