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Last month, Juan Williams appeared on Fox News Channel and expressed an opinion: he was all a-scurred of people on airplanes dressed in Muslim garb! Very soon after, Williams was sacked by his principal employer, National Public Radio.
While it was something of a novelty — media figures are typically allowed to say unkind and intemperate things about Muslims in America without fear of losing their jobs — it was pretty clear that NPR — who could have, I don’t know… asked any other human being in their organization to present a countering opinion if it meant that much to them — just didn’t much like Williams very much. Williams subsequently signed a $2 million/three-year deal with Fox News, and defunding NPR became a conservative cause.
Over at The Hill, Jordan Fabian reports that the GOP is preparing to get down to the business of “defunding” NPR:
House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly “YouCut” contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.
“When NPR executives made the decision to unfairly terminate Juan Williams and to then disparage him afterwards, the bias of their organization was exposed,” the two Republicans said in a statement. “Make no mistake, it is not the role of government to tell news organizations how to operate. What is avoidable, however, is providing taxpayer funds to news organizations that promote a partisan point of view. Eliminating taxpayer funding for NPR is precisely the kind of commonsense cut that we have to begin making if we want to fundamentally alter the way business is conducted in Washington.”
It’s unclear as to what sort of effect defunding will have on NPR as a whole — the range seems to be “slight to negligible.” CBS News’s Brian Montopoli has a great explainer on how the funding for NPR breaks down:
NPR does end up with some federal funding in an indirect sense, though it only makes up between one and three percent of the group’s budget on a yearly basis, according to NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, who discussed the matter in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today.
Here’s how Schiller breaks it down: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which covers both radio and television, gets $90 million per year in federal funding that goes to member public radio stations, not NPR itself. (This would be your local NPR affiliate.) She said any money NPR gets from the CPB comes via grants it has to apply for, and those grants only make up a tiny percentage of the overall NPR budget, which Schiller puts at $160 million per year.
That said, Montopoli notes that there’s a potential “hole” in Schiller’s breakdown: “If the CPB sends most of its radio money to member stations, and the member stations pay dues to NPR, doesn’t NPR still end up getting taxpayer money via member stations, in addition to the one to three percent it gets via grants?”
Based upon his discussion of the matter with NPR’s senior manager of media relations Anna Christopher, Montopoli reported that “the percentage of NPR’s budget that is made up of federal money coming via station fees would be relatively small.”
Anyway, this could all result in slightly longer and more needful series of NPR pledge drives in the coming years. The big winner in all of this appears to be whoever benefits from the “Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners Program,” which finished second in the YouCut voting.