06.14.2010 0

Time to Stop Funding Luxuries, Like Public Broadcasting

By Rebekah Rast –

As a taxpayer, it is a good idea to take a step back and evaluate the government-run programs you are financially supporting.

Most likely you will be appalled. As American families have to adjust their spending budgets due to the depressed economy, the federal government continues to plunge the nation into unprecedented debt levels. The only way out of this mess is for the government to start cutting non-essential programs.

One such program, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), is a good place to start.

Networks such as Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) feed off federal funding from CPB. This year alone, American taxpayers are spending $420 million to fund CPB. That’s $420 million too much.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) is proposing legislation this week that will put an end to taxpayer subsidies of public broadcasting. CPB is a non-profit that receives about 13 percent of its funding from the federal government — meaning taxpayers.

“The Corporation for Public Broadcasting puts out some programs that I enjoy and a lot of people enjoy, but they can stand on their own two feet,” Lamborn says in an exclusive interview with Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “In fact, 87 percent of their money comes from sources other than the U.S. taxpayer. So why should we, in days of $1 trillion annual deficits, give money to a corporation or any company that can fund itself.”

It is a huge waste of federal dollars to continue funding CPB. Programs on PBS and NPR have a wide audience and receive a lot of outside support. Like any other government-independent company, if people like it, they will ensure it stays open for business.

When looking at how CPB got started, it is apparent that there is no longer a need for its services in today’s world. President Johnson, who established CPB through the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, he made clear the purpose of the organization.

“The Corporation will assist stations and producers who aim for the best in broadcasting good music, in broadcasting exciting plays, and in broadcasting reports on the whole fascinating range of human activity. It will try to prove that what educates can also be exciting,” he said in a speech at the White House before signing the bill into a law.

The list of purposes for CPB that President Johnson gives can be found today through hundreds of mediums. But during his time, there wasn’t near the variety we have now.

Cable television wasn’t around until the late 1940s, so by 1967 there weren’t many cable channels for people to choose from. When Johnson established the CPB, he wanted these telecommunications services to be available to all Americans. Today, there is an estimated 114.9 million households with televisionsabout 99 percent of U.S. households. There is no longer a need for taxpayer-subsidized public broadcasting.

“I think in this current environment in the United States the original intent behind public broadcasting is no longer relevant,” says ALG President Bill Wilson. “Public broadcasting was originally enacted when there were three network television channels and limited access to news and information. Today there is literally hundreds of cable channels, thousands of blogs and Internet sites from any number of credible entities.”

In essence, taxpayers are paying for a luxury. It isn’t right for the single mother who is working two jobs and can barely make ends meet for her family to be forced to pay for something this unnecessary.

“This is a total luxury,” Wilson says. “It is a luxury in the sense that this is not something people can’t get other places. Clearly there isn’t enough of a market for it because if there were, it wouldn’t need government taxpayer money just to pay its salaries and pay its overhead.”

If government funding was pulled from stations like PBS, you might wonder what will happen to children’s educational programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Again, if people value these shows as an important resource, they will be taken care of apart from federal funding.

Lamborn’s legislation is a step in the right direction. Government spending is out of control and Obama’s method of throwing more money at our economy is not working. Federal spending cuts need to start somewhere, and there is no better place than a program that can survive on its own.

“Four-hundred-and-twenty million dollars, that’s almost half a billion dollars, that is serious money. And if we don’t take steps like that, if we don’t take the low-hanging fruit then where else will we save the money?” Lamborn says. “We have to make hard choices. If we are going to get our deficit under control, we have to make tough choices.”

This is an easy first step in the right direction. It is time for the borrowing and spending to stop. America cannot afford to give handouts to corporations on a silver platter any longer.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to ALG News Bureau.

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