02.28.2011 0

It is Time for Big Bird to Fly on His Own

  • On: 03/09/2011 09:35:58
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • By Rebekah Rast

    Worried that ending taxpayer funding for National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will result in Sesame Streets’ demise?

    NPR’s senior vice president for development is not. “Well frankly, it is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding,” said Ron Schiller.

    Yes, those words came out of the mouth of a senior vice president at NPR. In light of the current battle to end federal funding for NPR, Ron Schiller makes a compelling statement contrary to the views of his own employer.

    What more do Congress and American taxpayers need to understand that funding this media outlet is unnecessary and, according to Schiller, potentially hurting its bottom line?

    Schiller goes on to say in a video captured by video sting extraordinaire James O’Keefe, that “Our job would be a lot easier if people weren’t confused about — because we get federal funding a lot of Americans, a lot of philanthropists actually think we get most of our money from the federal government.” Thus, Schiller claims NPR would do just fine without federal funding and could possibly do better if more donors knew they were needed to keep the corporation alive.

    Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has been spreading this same message to his colleagues in the House of Representatives. He has introduced legislation to rid NRP and television-affiliate PBS of federal funds.

    “The evidence is overwhelming and the video is condemning,” says Congressman Lamborn in an exclusive interview with Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “Public broadcasting does not need taxpayer dollars.”

    It also no longer needs Schiller as an employee. He has accepted a job with the Aspen Institute in light of his video appearance.

    The sting operation began when Schiller bought into a setup with two men who posed as members of a Muslim group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood who claimed they wanted to support NPR with a check for $5 million dollars after hearing about the Republican plan to defund the federally supported corporation. At a lunch meeting, Schiller let all his frustrations out, from the confusion of NPR being partially funded by the federal government to the tea party group and even what he calls too small a percentage of “educated and so-called elite in this country.”

    Schiller’s words called for immediate action and clean up by NPR. Politico reports on the statement given by Dana Davis Rehm, senior vice president of Marketing, Communications and External Relations.

    “ ‘The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept. We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for. Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.’ ”

    A similar video sting was credited for ending federal funding for the group ACORN last year. Will this video be enough to pull federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and save taxpayers about $450 million each year on average?

    The House of Representatives has already voted to defund the organizations in the continuing resolution. It is now up to the Senate, and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) not only supports defunding NPR and PBS but is going after the corporations a different way.

    It is no secret that NPR and PBS are doing all they can to salvage federal funds. During broadcasts, commercials and lobbying efforts encourage people to call Congress and tell them to fight against efforts to take away their funding.

    According to NPR and PBS’s nonprofit status, they may be violating lobbying laws with their push to stay funded by the government.

    The Washington Times reports, “Lawmakers and conservative critics argue the stations are breaking two laws, one that prohibits using taxpayer-funded grants to petition Congress for more taxpayer money and the other that bans nonprofits from doing much lobbying of any kind.”

    Along with introducing legislation that would end federal funding for NPR and PBS, Sen. DeMint sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance asking members of the committee to evaluate whether or not any public broadcasting stations have crossed the legal line by asking their viewers and listeners to contact Congress.

    In the letter obtained by ALG, one of the questions Sen. DeMint asked, “Can taxpayers be guaranteed that no government funds were used to broadcast these calls to action and lobby Congress for funding?”

    As Sen. DeMint awaits an answer, Rep. Lamborn offers his own advice for NPR and PBS.

    He concludes, “For his own future good it is time to push Big Bird out of the nest so he can fly on his own.”

    Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. You can follow her on Twitter at @RebekahRast.

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