Schiller resignations not enough to take NPR off political agenda


National Public Radio is light two Schillers following the resignations of leader Vivian and fundraiser Ron, but that will have virtually no effect on the Washington debate over funding not only NPR, but PBS and CPB as well. It was a hot topic before, and the temperature is rising.

Bills to defund public broadcasting had already been introduced before the Ron Schiller video went public, leading to both his and Vivian Schiller’s resignation. However, Democrats in Congress and the White House have indicated they still support CPB, NPR and PBS.

A perennial Democratic tactic when public broadcasting comes under Republican attack is to trot out popular PBS children’s characters and accuse the Republicans of turning the characters into victims. One CPB foe in Congress took that strategy head on. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said, “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. 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.”

Lamborn’s words were echoed by Jim DeMint (R-SC), who along with Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation in the Senate to defund public broadcasting before the latest NPR crisis came to light.

However, Democrats are pushing back. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (pictured with PBS character Arthur Reed) is founder of the House’s Public Broadcasting Caucus. He said, “Every month, more than 170 million Americans choose to have their lives enriched by tuning in to their local public radio or TV stations. These stations give our communities a voice by covering local news and events in ways that newspapers cannot and commercial TV and radio stations do not. Together, thanks to federal support, public broadcasting reaches every major city and most small towns in America.” He added, “This successful public-private partnership only represents .0001% of the federal budget and costs the average American less than half a cent a day. In many rural areas, however, this funding is absolutely essential for the survival of local stations since it can amount to as much as 40-50% of their budgets.”

The White House said it provided for increased public broadcasting funding in its latest budget proposal and stands by the decision. According to Hillicon Valley, WH press secretary Jay Carney said of CPB, PBS and NPR, “”We think they are worthwhile and important priorities, as our budget makes clear,” and added the Republican administrations in the past have consistently arrived at the same conclusion.