The Gross National Debt

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Defunding Public Broadcasting


Full Disclosure - I listen to NPR regularly. I read newspapers regularly. I have not watched TV in years. I have not voluntarily contributed to public broadcasting efforts. I involuntarily contribute through paying federal taxes.

While I very much enjoy a majority of the programming, the parts I do not enjoy, the parts I find too liberal are the parts which blatantly ignore the mission of public broadcasting in news which is to present a full spectrum of views. I further admit 95 percent of my objections to public broadcasting is the efforts at the state level. The national-level work is very very very good - better than what passes for "news" in commercial media.

I have listened, intently, to broadcasts generated by state-level news organizations. For a while, I kept a careful count of "loaded" words and how far news efforts went to include all sides.
Balancing the coverage...

At the state level when reporters cover matters that have political overtones, emphasis is slanted. When liberal efforts are trumped, adjectives are used to modify the defeat. When conservative efforts win, the delivery is deadpan with no adjectives. This is not a regular occurrence, but it is common enough to prove the news is slanted.

News efforts at the state level also ignore lesser, but very important players in the political scene.

Speaking of ignoring lesser but yet important players - I live in Southwest Georgia. Georgia Public Radio might as well be called Atlanta Public Radio with regular asides from Savannah and every now and then from Columbus.

Entire weeks go by without a single mention of news from SOWEGA.

I have pointed this out. Several times.

I am told "GPB does not have the resources to send reporters to SOWEGA regularly."

Uh, what?

This is RADIO. There's this AMAZING invention been around longer than anyone at GBP has been alive. It's called a TELEPHONE.

Pick up the phone. Call new sources in SOWEGA. There's the news story.

So, on with the topic of the day.

As I type this I listen to the National Public Radio program - On The Media (OTM).

They are talking about the present efforts to cut federal funding for public broadcasting. This includes TV and Radio, which covers such programs as The Electric Company, Sesame Street as well as Car Talk, All Things Considered and the abomination of the airwaves - News & Notes (abomination NOT for the reasons a lot of people will accuse me of using.)

Cutting federal funding will have a sharp effect at the state level. Why? The bulk of federal money goes to state TV and radio stations. From there, a lot of that is funneled back to the nationwide effort. Cutting funding means a lot of state public broadcasting will take serious cuts.

Myself? I support cutting funding for public broadcasting, but I support it for a reason no one as yet articulated. One person interviewed by OTM did come close when he asked if there is a Constitutional guarantee that federal tax dollars must fund public broadcasting.

There is no Constitutional requirement to fund dissemination of the news. Rather, there is a Constitutional prohibition on government interference with such.

So, my reason for defunding public broadcasting is a textbook Libertarian argument.

If it is not necessary to the operation of the nation, why should my tax dollars support it?

Rebuttals like "it is good for the nation" and "it fills a role no one else is willing to fill" are straw men which catch fire under the least examination with a magnifying glass. Besides being specious arguments, when you flip those arguments around, the person who insists his position is right will demand you are wrong.

Confusing. I explain and simplify.
This ain't the DOT.

You say it is necessary for government to fund some program because you support the aims, efforts and results of that program. I object to the federal funding because I object to the aims, efforts and results of that program.

Because you support it, you believe everyone should fund it.

Using your reasoning I can (and I will if you want me to) find a federal funded program you object to because you object to the aims, efforts and results of that program. I can find a federally funded program for which you will actively lobby your congressman to cut the funding.

To wit: You say because you object to the program, it should not be funded.

If I say the same thing, cut funding because I object, then I am wrong.

Tell me the real difference.

Why should my tax dollars go to support any federal expenditure not necessary to functioning of the nation?

I'm listening. Still.
The sound you now hear is me stripping the clutch of a mental transmission and cutting a 90 degree turn at high speed...

OTM did a pretty good job of examining NPR and its news programs.

One of the things OTM used to back NPR's argument for continued funding is the massive number of journalism awards NPR has garnered.


Such awards (and I have more than 100 journalism-communication awards myself) are given to those who apply.

The real awards, the ones that really matter and really count, are not received in contests, are not awarded at ceremonies.

Be there for someone. That's reward enough.
The real award for successful journalism is earning the trust of your audience. The real awards are when a reader comes up and hugs you for doing a story that meant something to them. The real awards are seeing people walk into the newspaper and buy a stack of papers to send to relatives.

The very best award is when someone comes up and asks you to do a story "because I know you'll get it right."

Do the folks at NPR have these kinds of awards? Most assuredly.

Does this mean public broadcasting should be funded with taxpayer dollars? Most assuredly not.

If public broadcasting is so essential, then the public should voluntarily support it.
This ain't voluntary support.

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