Mitt Romney would have noncoms sell advertising


If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is successful in his attempt to return the White House to Republican control, it could spell the end of government financing for CPB, PBS and NPR – but the unintended consequence could be new competition for scarce advertising revenue for commercial broadcasters.

Romney brought up the end of public financing for noncommercial broadcasting while talking about his overall plan for whittling away the national deficit.

At an Iowa town hall event, Romney said, “I like PBS, we subsidize PBS. Look — I’m gonna stop that, I’m gonna say PBS is gonna have to have advertisement. We’re not gonna kill Big Bird, but Big Bird’s gonna have advertisements, all right.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill frequently target public broadcasting as a place to start cutting spending, which almost invariably leads to an influx of Sesame Street characters to Capitol Hill events featuring Democrats, microphones and cameras. Funding has yet to disappear, and even the utter implosion of NPR just over a year ago in the debacle that followed the Juan Williams firing failed to be enough of a crowbar to kill off funding.

The elimination of funding for public broadcasting from the federal budget would of course have a negligible effect on deficit reduction.

RBR-TVBR observation: For a broadcaster, this is definitely in the be-careful-what-you-wish-for category. We know that RBR-TVBR readers would not welcome an advertising-dependent NPR.

After the NPR publicity nightmare, we polled our readers on what life would be like if NPR lost funding and had start selling spots to keep its programming on the air. Only 18.7% of our readers thought that would be a good thing. 35.1% thought the result would be neutral. The poll went to a group of readers — slightly less than half of those voting at 46.2% — that saw a negative effect produced by new competition for advertising dollars.