By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Keeping the “public” in public radio

In my latest for the Guardian, I argue that NPR and public radio stations shouldn’t walk away from government funding, even if they don’t need it. For one thing, it would hand the right a victory in the culture wars. For another, it would set a dangerous precedent for public television, which is far more dependent on public money.


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  1. BP Myers

    Apparently, if people aren’t shouting, there’s a liberal bias.

    That said, I can’t help but notice that your own argument is becoming somewhat “nuanced.” You’ve dismissed for years the importance of public funding for NPR, claiming they’d do just fine on their own, but now you’re saying it’s important for what it does for PBS.

    Just wanted you to know, I noticed.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: Yes, public radio would do fine without government funding. But they shouldn’t let themselves be chased out of the public arena.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: The last in-depth piece I wrote about NPR was in 2005, for the Phoenix. As you will see, I do not call on public radio to give up its government funding, although I observe that it could — just as I do in the Guardian today.

  2. L.K. Collins

    I find it interesting that the entire article was pretty much a “dis” on right-wing news/entertainment and Fox in particular, and little or no reason why NPR should get funding in the first place.

    What’s the matter, Dan, unable to make stronger argument then giving up the funding would make it seem that the critics are correct?

  3. BP Myers

    @Dan: I agree you are always quick to point out that NPR does not need the government teat to survive (and I refer mostly to your comments on “Beat the Press” and here on this blog, and not to your more in-depth reporting.)

    Just pointing out that now, when there are rumbles that public support might indeed be pulled, you argue that it shouldn’t be . . . under these circumstances. Someone less cynical than me might argue you are backtracking.

    But me? I’d argue public funding (which is indeed a pittance) shouldn’t be pulled under any circumstances. But on the spirit of the argument, I think we can agree.

  4. LFNeilson

    It’s really more about perceived slant than about the money. Who would they punch if public broadcasting went away?

  5. ben starr

    In a quick read of the article I didn’t notice an argument for federal government support of media organizations.

  6. C.E. Stead

    DK – when you say that pulling public funding would hand the ‘right a victory in the culture wars’, you seem to be endorsing the POV that NPR is in fact left-leaniong, which they strenuously deny.

    You oppose government involvment in failing newspapers because it would exert undue influence. Is that a problem for radio? If not, why not?

    That said – when you talk about creating a precedent, you sound like a state employee handing out unnecessary overtime to spend down the budget, because if you don’t spend your entire appropriation, they’ll cut your line next year. We have problems with debt, overtaxation, and cutting struggling programs serving people in need due to lack of revenue. Are you REALLY advocating taking government money when it isn’t actually necessary just to prove a point? And what would that point be, anyway?

  7. Bob Nelson

    To be fair and balanced, I propose that tax money should also go to Fox News Channel…hmm, how do you feel now? When PBS and NPR were created there were limited sources of broadcast media but now there are considerably more (both terrestrial and cable, and on AM and FM). I say let PBS and NPR compete in the public marketplace–and if that means allow them to run ads, so be it. Take money from individuals/voluntary
    donations, foundations, and corporations but not my tax money, please. And by the way a 2008 list of corporate contributors to NPR included an
    entity known as “Fox Broadcasting Company”. Neat…Their choice.

    Howie Carr: “I can see why Air America failed. We already have a liberal network, and it’s taxpayer funded. It’s called NPR.”

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