House GOP leaders continued to urge Congress to defund public broadcasting following NPR CEO Vivian Schiller’s resignation stemming from a video “sting” in which her chief fund-raiser was caught on tape bashing the Tea Party.
More damning in light of NPR’s funding battle was fund-raiser Ron Schiller’s admission that “would be better off in the long-run without federal funding.” Schiller, who is of no relation to the NPR CEO, departed his post on Monday.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, “Our concern is not about any one person at NPR, rather it’s about millions of taxpayers. NPR has admitted that they don’t need taxpayer subsidies to thrive, and at a time when the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that it spends, we certainly agree with them.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who is leading the effort to eliminate all funding for thhe Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said in a statement,”This latest development in what appears to be an internal meltdown at National Public Radio only strengthens my resolve to eliminate all federal funding for NPR and its parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
Seizing Muppetry rhetoric, he added, “I have been seeking to push Big Bird out of the nest for over a year, based on the simple fact that we can no longer afford to spend taxpayer dollars on non-essential government programs. It’s time for Big Bird to earn his wings and learn to fly on his own.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the federal outlay for public media, and the administration is proposing to increase funding in its fiscal 2012 budget. (The money for CPB would be for future years, as it runs on an advanced appropriations cycle).
What is unclear is where funding for public media is in the negotiations over a continuing budget resolution for the rest of this year. Public media advocates have been insistent that support to fund NPR, PBS and stations remains stronger than the rhetoric may indicate. But it’s clear that public broadcasting is in the midst of one of the most serious debate about its future in recent memory.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), who has been a champion of public broadcasting, said this morning in his own statement, “The comments made by Ron Schiller, a fundraiser at NPR, were foolish and indefensible. They don’t reflect in any way the opinions of the many dedicated journalists who work at NPR. Yet with 89 percent of federal public broadcasting dollars going directly to local stations, the fact of the matter is that NPR is not the most important part of the public broadcasting debate.”
He added,”As traditional news outlets lay off reporters and offer less coverage of important topics, public broadcasting is filling the gap, bringing critical news and information to communities across the country. What’s more, public broadcasting stations are the only source of free programming that educates our children rather than the many commercial stations simply trying to sell them products. Our communities, our workers and our children would be the true victims of any cuts to funding for public broadcasting.”