Barton, Burgess Ask GAO to Investigate NPR Funding
Republican backlash against firing of Juan Williams escalates
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/18/2010 11:21:00 AM
In a letter to GAO, they asked for an investigation into whether NPR is using "federally appropriated funds for the creation of content as opposed to the technical operation of the network and its stations."
"We do not mean to suggest that government should be involved in the editorial decisions of NPR or any other provider of content," they wrote. "We hold quite the contrary view, which is why we have consistently opposed re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine," Barton and Burgess wrote. "Our concern is that the use of appropriated taxpayer dollars for the production of content could inappropriately involve the government in the promulgation of particular viewpoints and the silencing of others, especially since many taxpayers may not share the editorial views of NPR."
NPR fired Juan Williams after remarks he made about Muslims on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, which factored into Barton and Burgess' decision to call for the investigation.
"While we recognize the prudence of a news organization setting ethical standards for the behavior of its journalists, we are deeply concerned that the precipitous action taken to terminate Williams's contract may reflect a tendency on the part of NPR management to use its ethics rules to silence employees whose greatest offense is contravention of the rules of political correctness rather than to preserve any core ethical or editorial standards," the lawmakers added.
Republicans have historically tried to cut noncommercial broadcasting funding, citing what they say is a liberal bias. The issue was most prominent during the tenure of CPB Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson, who argued that CPB needed to provide more conservative viewpoints to balance out that perceived bias.
NPR had no immediate comment, saying it would wait until after a reported House vote today on slashing NPR funding. "We'll have a response following today's House debate and vote," said Anna Christopher Bross, senior manager of media relations for NPR.
GOP Whip and incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) signaled NPR funding would be a topic of conversation, tweeting earlier Thursday that online voters had tapped that funding as the program they would most like to cut.
The House vote paving the way for voting for that cut, which was happening at press time, was not expected to pass and would be primarily symbolic since it is a lame duck session with Democrats in control. But it could signal problems for noncom funding in the next Congress, particularly after the co-chairs of an Obama administration commission on fiscal responsibility recommended zeroing out noncom funding altogether to save money.
Barton and Burgess want answers to the following questions:
"1. How much federally appropriated funding does NPR receive, directly, from CPB, or from member or independent public broadcast stations, or from other sources? What percentage of its overall funding does such funding represent?
2. Are federally appropriated funds made available to NPR-directly, from CPB, through member or independent stations, or from other sources-segregated in any way from NPR's other operating funds, or are federally-appropriated funds intermingled with the remainder of NPR's operating budget?
3. Are any federally appropriated funds made available to NPR-whether directly, from CPB, through member or independent stations, or from other sources-used for the production of content or for the salaries of on-air personalities, copy editors, or other individuals with influence or editorial control over the content or views expressed on NPR?
4. Both Vivian Schiller and Alicia Shepard stated that Williams had previously violated NPR's news code of ethics several times with comments that he made on media networks other than NPR. Please identify each of the instances mentioned specifically or alluded to by NPR, and describe the way in which they were handled by NPR, including any investigation or other outcome that resulted.
5. Were federally appropriated funds expended in the course of any investigation, internal deliberations, negotiations, drafting tasks, or disciplinary process carried out pursuant to NPR's April 2008 decision to modify its contractual relationship with Williams? Were attorney's fees paid with federally appropriated funds?
6. Were any federally appropriated funds expended in the course of any internal deliberations, negotiations, or drafting tasks carried out pursuant to NPR's October 20 decision to terminate its contract with Williams?"
Attention progressives: stop hitting the panic button. This is nothing more than a little political point-scoring and bringing a bit of accountability to NPR.
JoeReality - 11/18/2010 2:53:57 PM EST
Way to go GOP! With that laser like focus on jobs! And making those 'adult' choices on difficult fiscal issues.
Zebulon Pike III - 11/18/2010 2:24:06 PM EST
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