09.30.2010 0

Defund Public Broadcasting Once and For All

  • On: 10/25/2010 09:25:22
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • By Bill Wilson

    Any pretense that once existed that National Public Radio (NPR) is an objective news outlet open to alternative viewpoints and serving the public interest is gone.

    That is why in the wake of NPR’s canning news analyst Juan Williams simply for speaking his mind, Americans for Limited Government (ALG) has launched a national petition calling for an end to taxpayer funding of public broadcasting. Concerned citizens can visit http://defundpublicbroadcasting.org to take part.

    Really, this is a long time coming. For too long, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has operated as a front for a radical, left-wing agenda under the guise of providing a public service. As such, ALG has also renewed its call for members of Congress to cosponsor legislation by Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) that would defund it permanently.

    Lamborn’s legislation got a big boost on October 21st when House Republican Leader in an interview with National Review Online also called for pulling the plug on public broadcasting.

    It’s pretty simple. In these dire economic times, with a national debt of over $13.6 trillion, we cannot afford luxuries.

    Currently, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives about $420 million annually from taxpayers in the federal budget. According to Lamborn, the CPB receives about 13 percent of its funding from Congress: $420 million. That means that its total budget is about $3.23 billion.

    It probably could operate on its own without federal taxes, but it must be noted that another 25 percent of its funding, or about $800 million, comes from state and local taxes.

    For that, what have taxpayers gotten in return for pouring over $1 billion into public broadcasting? Blatant viewpoint discrimination, a politically correct agenda, and now, censorship.

    All Williams said in his interview with FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly was “when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

    Now, Williams is entitled to his honest opinion. But it must be emphasized that in the same interview, he was making the broader point that one must distinguish between Muslims of faith and terrorists who are killing in the name of their religion. And he was explaining in an honest way his own personal struggle to overcome fear in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to make that point.

    And for that, he was fired. For his part, Williams has stated he still has not been given a satisfactory explanation as to what “editorial guidelines” he supposedly violated. One thing is clear, however. Williams was not even on NPR when he said it, and the byline under his name said “FOX News Contributor,” not NPR.

    So, he was on FOX News, on FOX News’ dime, for FOX News. Perhaps that was the real problem.

    Since being fired by NPR, Williams has had his contract extended with FOX, and he got a raise. Writing for FOXNews.com, Williams called his dismissal “a chilling assault on free speech. The critical importance of honest journalism and a free flowing, respectful national conversation needs to be had in our country. But it is being buried as collateral damage in a war whose battles include political correctness and ideological orthodoxy.”

    Williams added, “I say an ideological battle because my comments on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ are being distorted by the self-righteous ideological, left-wing leadership at NPR.”

    Williams is right. His actual message was an inclusive one, a moderate one. But it has been taken out of context and twisted, with his opponents, even his former boss, labeling him a bigot, and questioning his very sanity. All this by a publicly funded institution.

    Only, as de facto government entities managing a limited public forum, NPR and in extension the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are not permitted under the First Amendment to discriminate on the basis of Williams’ or anybody else’s viewpoint. They’re not even supposed to take it into consideration.

    Instead, they are supposed to be viewpoint neutral in operating what amounts to a public square. They cannot bar access nor censor the content of that square. They cannot allow viewpoints contrary to Williams’ view but not find room for his. Such is the price of taxpayer funding of the forum. Simply put, they cannot constitutionally engage in censorship.

    But that is exactly what they have done to Williams, whose discriminatory firing is a perfect, perhaps prime reason why there shouldn’t even be public broadcasting. The government has proven time and again that it is an intolerant force that neither possesses the ability nor the willingness to respect alternative viewpoints.

    Given their track record, I’m not even going to pretend that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting could ever be reformed to be viewpoint neutral. They are a radical, ideological propaganda unit, and Congress has a responsibility to cut off their funding. They are discriminating against honest journalists, and taxpayers should not be compelled to finance its ideological, one-sided political agenda.

    Besides, we cannot afford it. The fact is, if Congress cannot cut public broadcasting when we must begin to balance the budget, it cannot cut anything.

    Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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