National Public Radio's recent firing of longtime news analyst Juan Williams was a wake-up call for many Americans to the political correctness and liberal bias at NPR. However, it is not so much that bias that offends me, but the fact that my tax dollars are funding it.
Long before Williams' firing, I had sponsored a bill in Congress to pull the plug on federal funding for NPR. I have long believed that the operation is fully capable of standing on its own. It is time for Congress to prioritize its spending to our nation's most pressing needs. With the national debt over $13 trillion, the government cannot continue to fund non-essential services.
On its own website, NPR describes itself as "an independent, self-supporting media organization . . . that receive(s) no direct federal funding for operations." That carefully worded statement is disingenuous and hides the truth about the extent to which taxpayers are supporting NPR and its liberal agenda.
NPR is a two-tiered operation, consisting of the Washington-based operational headquarters that produces programs and the more than 700 NPR affiliate radio stations that broadcast those programs.
The operational headquarters gets about 2 percent of its annual income from its parent agency, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. However, according to NPR's website, local affiliate stations get 10 percent of their funding from CPB. The stations get an additional 5.6 percent of their funding from various federal, state and local governments. NPR obtains additional federal money from grants obtained through the Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts, and possibly other government agencies. Its affiliate stations get tax dollars from state-funded universities and colleges.
My staff is currently researching all of NPR's various sources of taxpayer dollars. For now, to our best knowledge, CPB has funneled over $4 billion in taxpayer money to NPR and PBS since 2001.
Furthermore, NPR has a massive private endowment of well over $225 million. You may recall that in 2003, the widow of Ray Kroc, the founder of the McDonald's corporation, donated more than $200 million to NPR's endowment. At the time, it was the single largest monetary gift ever given to a cultural institution. George Soros recently added another $1.8 million to that fund. Every year, private businesses and individual contributors pledge millions to NPR affiliate stations.
The original purpose of federal funding for CPB, established in 1967, is no longer relevant. The intent of federally funded public broadcasting was to make "telecommunications services available to all citizens of the United States." In a world of 500-channel cable TV, streaming radio over the Internet, and cellphone Internet access, government-funded broadcasting is completely unnecessary. The government has no business being a broadcaster, especially when there is a thriving private market.
In the era of trillion-dollar annual deficits and a total federal debt approaching $14 trillion, we simply cannot afford to subsidize media outlets that are fully capable of standing on their own.
My bill, HR 5538, would cut all federal funding for CPB, which has received over $450 million in 2010 alone. It has already requested another $604 million for 2013. For years, Congress has appropriated funding well beyond the rate of inflation. Over the past decade, funding for public broadcasting has risen over 26 percent.
Now that the voters have given Republicans the majority in the House, we know we will have to make some tough choices on spending. But cutting a program that can survive without federal aid should not be one of those tough choices. If their programming, much of which I personally enjoy, can survive in the free market, more power to them. If it cannot, why should taxpayers have to make up the difference?
Rep. Doug Lamborn represents the 5th District of Colorado.