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CPB/NPR funding debate

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:59 pm
by fmdj1
So this has been tossed around at the end of the recent articles, but as someone pointed out, it deserves rational discussion. The two things floating around on Capitol Hill are: 1. US Taxpayers should not be funding public broadcasting and/or 2. Taxpayer money used for CPB cannot be used to purchase programming from organizations like NPR.

I'd like to see some serious discussion about this if anyone is game. Name calling and unsupported opinions are unwelcome, at least in my mind.

So which side are you on and why? Chime in. I'll put in my 2 cents in a separate post.

Re: CPB/NPR funding debate

Posted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:24 pm
by fmdj1
Ok, before I give my 2 cents on the issue, I think it fair to give a little info about myself so you know where my opinions come from. First, I have worked in public radio management for the past 5 years, or about a quarter of the entire time I've been in radio. I've been a listener of public radio for about 7 years. I consider myself a moderate conservative, I am a family man and I am deeply religious.

Ok, enough about me. So, in regards to the first issue, why government should continue to subsidize public radio. CPB funding at public radio stations must be used for programming. This means it directly impacts the audience. It doesn't pay management salaries, power bills, etc. Removing federal funding would then impact what programming is available. Public broadcasters would be required to operate like commercial broadcasters, which means programming would need to target audiences that are most attractive to advertisers. Sesame Street and NPR news would probably survive, but jazz, classical music, and most of the educational programming on public stations would likely be replaced by programming similar to Saturday morning cartoons and commercial entertainment-oriented news.

Additionally, removing federal funding for CPB would mean federal rules applying specifically to noncommercial stations would need to be removed so that they could compete. This means that commercial stations would instantly get additional competition for commercial dollars.

Some argue that listeners/viewers should pay for programming, and to some extent they do. However, asking them to pay for all of it would be akin to saying only parents should pay for schools and public parks and only seniors should pay for community centers. Essentially, there would be no parks or community centers, except those owned by the elite. Fortunately our country survives on shared burdens. I pay for a senior's healthcare and they help keep my kids in school.

Finally, on subject one, over 1 out of 10 Americans still get their TV from good old antennas and the vast majority of Americans still get their radio that way. Removing support for formats that cannot support themselves because those formats are available via satellite or cable means 1 out of 10 Americans have now been excluded or forced to pay for that programming.

On subject 2, the problem with stating stations cannot get their programming from NPR is it means the government controls what content public stations can and cannot play. This is frightening. It means that what public stations play will need to pander to the controlling party. In its mildest form, you get CSPAN, and taken to the extreme you get "state controlled media". Neither is beneficial for the majority of Americans.

Finally, keep in mind news is only part of the programming NPR provides. Piano Jazz, JazzSet, All Songs Considered, and tons of other informative and entertaining programs come from NPR. Preventing funding from being spent on programming from NPR would mean those programs would no longer be available to audiences.

So that's my 2 cents. I'd love to get feedback.

Re: CPB/NPR funding debate

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:02 am
by fmdj1
Danno, good points. It certainly is an argument against point 1 I first mentioned, but not against point 2. You are correct, between the many options on cable and satellite radio, you can find many of the benefits also available via public broadcasting. As I mentioned in my first reply, though, over 1 in 10 American households still rely on over-the-air television and I would guess more than 95% on over-the-air radio. So by removing funding we are telling these people if they want the benefits they once found in public broadcasting, they now need to pay for them by subscribing to cable TV and satellite radio, rather then relying on the shared burden of taxpayers.
I think this works well for the people who can afford these services. The only concern is for people who don't subscribe to these services because they cannot afford to. I believe the number of people going back to over the air is on the rise as incomes shrink and costs rise. As a nation we would need to decide whether we want to subsidize these people for subscription to these services, which probably negates the tax-savings, or limit their access to that type of programming.
Finally, there is one minor error in the argument you made that should probably be corrected. I believe the majority of the channels which you listed do not primarily support themselves by advertising. If they were commercially viable, I would think they would be over the air, not on subscription services. In fact, if you watch the Disney channel regularly, you'll notice you don't really see ads, just promos for other shows. I believe These channels primarily support themselves by fees paid by satellite and cable companies for the right to carry these channels. As public programming is also, for the most part, not commercially viable, it would probably take a subscription service to continue to support it.

Re: CPB/NPR funding debate

Posted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:23 pm
by robnokshus
Increasingly I have been listening to NPR news. I find the calm and even handed presentation allows me to better understand the issues facing all of us today. It is not surprising to me that in this age of the PPM, Public radio ranks right up there with and in several cases above commercial news/talk stations.

With that said however, I also think that Public Radio should be weened from the government teat, mainly to spare it from the type of political circus act we see it being bandied about in now. De-funding NPR isn't about saving any money during tough times. It's pure political theatre and it happens every few years or so when a political party wants to fire up it's base. It doesn't really stand a chance of passing this time, but it sure is a loud, distracting noise.

I would like to see public radio, truly public and not subject to whatever political wind is blowing at the time. That would also require, as fmdj1 noted, a loosening of the regulations surrounding Public Radio. Low power FM should also be allowed to make money. Allow these forms of media to serve their listeners and make money while doing so, that's the American way, right?

Re: CPB/NPR funding debate

Posted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:59 pm
by angel0
I have been an avid radio listener since about 1937 hearing "Baby Snooks" in the evening from WEAF New York, then the serials locally from WBRE such as "Jack Armstrong" after school, then Saturday music such as "Hawaii Calls" and the Metropolitan Opera, etc. In college I listened to wonderful classical music from WQXR AM as it would propagate into Pennsylvania at night. Also could pick up Radio Moscow shortwave for some ridiculous propaganda and music in the 1950's. After grad school, college stations popped up. WDFM at Penn State where classical music piped into dormitories was the norm. Arriving in Columbus, OH in 1962 I instantly discovered WOSU AM of Ohio State University to which I became enslaved. Then the music switched to WOSU FM which I followed, ignoring the AM programming.

Fast forward to somewhere around the 1980's, WOSU AM and FM began to mention Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio whose format timbre came to remind me faintly of that of Radio Moscow. It's gotten worse over recent years, I can't bear to listen to the verbal broadcasts of WOSU any more. Classical music disappeared from 6am to 9am and from 4pm to 8pm. The only time it was comfortable to listen was after midnight when the verbal chatter ceases except for station breaks. Most recently the OSU radio system launched a new FM channel, WOSA, weak, but comprising only music which is all I now listen to from OSU. WOSU AM and FM are now solely verbal, and essentially CPB propaganda. Meanwhile I had discovered Rush Limbaugh in 1993 on numerous AM stations who echoes my conservative bent and on whose (FOX) programming I get most of my news to this day.

My point is that the University Radio Stations have turned completely liberal and I must say biased as they significantly purvey propaganda generated by the Federal Government. On that basis, I fully approve de-funding CPB, NPR and PBS. The federal government has no business in public broadcasting lest they become the phoenix of Radio Moscow.

Re: CPB/NPR funding debate

Posted: Mon Mar 28, 2011 9:36 am
by fmdj1
I appreciate the points robnokshus and angel0 brought up. In my initial argument it was that Public Radio would become a political football by the threat of defunding or stipulating what programming may be purchased with government funds, both both of them asserted that the providing of government funding can, by its very nature, influence programming decisions. I hadn't considered that before. So I guess the question is if we remove government funding from public broadcasting and require it to fly on its own, how do we get them to continue to provide programming that may not be as popular and, therefore, harder to sell? Or do we even worry about it? Although I don't have a crystal ball, I think on the radio end of things news, which is the most popular, would have the greatest chance of surviving, while jazz, classical, and other music formats would most likely not survive. There can be a parallel drawn to television and which programming would be more likely to survive and which wouldn't (goodbye Lawrence Welk :) ) I guess what I'm asking is would it be better to let these types of programs fall by the wayside if they don't have the audience to survive (which I can already tell you they don't in most markets) or should there be some sort of subsidy for that type of programming?