Monday, March 21, 2011

Juan Williams on NPR's Fall

From The Hill:
Liley’s revealing comment and Schiller’s arrogance are instructive because they provide a window in to the culture of elitism that has corroded NPR’s leadership. They're willing to do anything in service of any liberal with money. This includes firing me and skewing the editorial content of their programming. If anyone challenges them on this point, they will claim with self-righteous indignation to have cleaner hands than the rest of the news media who accepts advertising revenue or expresses a point of view.

I'm not just talking about conservatives but also the far left, the poor – anybody who didn't fit into leadership's marketing design of NPR as the elitist voice of comfortable, liberal-leaning, highly educated, upper-income America.

As Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, it was not until he saw the secretly recorded videotape of NPR executives that he understood the extent of political bias at NPR. “Of all the data that we’ve seen, we still had not absorbed the culture of NPR until we saw the video of that dinner.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added: “Why should we allow taxpayer dollars to be used to advocate one ideology?”

That dinner tape and the Democrat’s fundraising letter set the table for a totally partisan vote with Republicans voting in opposition to public funding of NPR and Democrats voting for it. Last Thursday, 228 Republicans voted to defund NPR while seven Republicans joined with 185 Democrats to preserve it. The effort was largely symbolic as there is hardly any chance the Democrat-controlled Senate will go along with the House on this one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is a huge NPR fan. When I was host of NPR’s afternoon talk show he once called me up to tell me how much he enjoyed an interview with soul singer Al Green. Sen. Reid is going to defend public radio.

The Democrat in the White House, President Obama, issued a statement of opposition to the House vote but stopped short of promising to veto any budget that eliminates NPR funding. And the White House did not make the case for why NPR deserves funding.

Before NPR’s top executive, Vivian Schiller, resigned her goal for NPR was to increase federal support to create an American version of the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]. The BBC, which also began as a radio news service, is funded by a mandatory licensing fee paid by all British subjects. It is essentially a tax set by Parliament every year to support a national news operation.

At the moment the government funding for NPR is only one of many sources of revenue and a very small one in the grand scheme. Arguably, the appropriators of federal dollars are more important to the local affiliates who depend on that money to buy public broadcasting programming. To my mind, this is the underlying problem that connects the hidden camera episode and the funding issue.

Journalists should not be doing news to please any donors – private citizens, political parties or government officials – out of fear of losing funding.