There’ve been some ominous signs coming out of the political world about funding for public radio. An initial Republican sally against federal funds in Congress wasn’t expected to yield results, but it’s likely just the first volley. A Huffington Post article called it a procedural trick:
The proposal to defund NPR was the latest winning item on the Republicans’ gimmicky YouCut site, which allows the public to pick the cuts they would like to see receive an up-or-down vote on the House floor. In order to get these votes, they try to make a procedural vote on an unrelated piece of legislation the vote on the YouCut item.
It would seem that there are a number of far more important items that should be brought to the floor for an up-or-down vote — but that never seems to happen. Tom Taylor’s blog on Radio-Info.com had this to say:
Yesterday’s 239 to 171 vote was symbolic because Republican leaders knew they’d lose — but they’ll be back in January or February, with stronger numbers. The question is how Americans feel about NPR, and whether NPR fans once again reach out to their elected representatives, as they did during the Newt Gingrich-attack days of the late 1990s. Another question – how strong is the support among NPR stations and on the NPR board for President/CEO Vivian Schiller? The board’s hired Weil, Gotshal & Manges to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Schiller’s seemingly-quick decision to fire senior news analyst Juan Williams. That was the proximate cause of the current conservative attack on NPR. But what lies underneath that is the long-held belief by some conservatives that NPR leans left. You see that in Fox News chief Roger Ailes’ no-holds-barred conversation with Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast.
Of course, many on the other side of the equation argue that NPR is drifting way right of late, assuming also the form of the giant radio consolidators and driving local content off the airwaves. A second note in Tom Taylor’s blog said:
The House vote was barely tallied before NPR issued a release saying that “Today, good judgment prevailed, as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news.” It called the bill “an unwarranted attempted to interject federal authority into local station program decision making.” But this is a highly unusual position for NPR to be in, defending itself so publicly. 2011 is going to be interesting, for lots of reasons.
So NPR is safe for the moment, but on the state level, that’s not the case. In New Jersey, for instance, the governor acted to cut public radio off from state funding, as reported here on Radio-Info.com, where reportedly: “NJN, the state’s public television and radio station, issued layoff notices to its 170 state employees, and additional notices are pending.” Comments touched on the possibility of a private corp taking over the TV and radio or maybe absorption into the New York or Philadelphia borg.
And New Jersey is not alone, as Tom Taylor also reported the following:
State-funded public broadcasting is threatened in Mississippi, too. Yesterday’s TRI told you about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie slashing NJN’s radio/TV budget in half this year, and zeroing it out after December 31. Now here’s Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Like Christie, he proposes having MPB turn itself into an independent operation with no contribution from the state. That’s probably not going to happen in New Jersey, given the shortness of the calendar, and its four TV licenses and nine non-commercial radio licenses may be up for grabs. Governor Barbour – a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate – is offering his state’s operation a bit more time to find its own funding.