Washington

GOP Push to Cut NPR Funding Fails

Effort fails in lame duck session under Democratic control 11/18/2010 03:04:00 PM Eastern

NPR
expresssed relief Thursday at the failure of a Republican effort on the
House floor to limit NPR programming funding. As expected, the effort
failed in a lame duck session still controlled by Democrats.

"The
proposal to prohibit public radio stations from using Corporation for
Public Broadcasting (CPB) grants to purchase NPR programming is an
unwarranted attempt
to interject federal authority into local station program
decision-making," NPR said in a statement.

"Furthermore, restrictions on
the authority of CPB
- a Congressionally chartered, independent non-profit organization - to
make competitive grants to NPR, or any other public broadcasting entity, is misguided. "

"In an
increasingly fractious media environment, public radio's value in
fostering an informed society has never been more critical. Our growing
audience shows that
we are meeting that need. It is imperative for federal funding to
continue to ensure that this essential tool of democracy remains
available to all Americans and thrives well into the future," NPR said.

That result
is far from a sure thing. Republicans have historically tried to cut or
zero-out noncom funding, and now they have some bipartisan cover.

The
co-chairs of the Obama administration commission on fiscal
responsibility has recommended that CPB be phased out, along with its
funding of
noncommercial radio
and TV. The most recent flashpoint was he firing of NPR commentator Juan
Williams over remarks he made about Muslims in
traaditional dress--they make him uncomfortable on planes.

That
commissioner chairmen recommendation could be a nonstarter as well, and
would still need approval of the entire commission, after which it would
have to get vote on
by a Congress that still has a Democratically controlled Senate. But a
pair of Republican representatives have also called for a
GAO investigation
into how NPR spends programming dollars from the goverment, and whether
it is to support a particular viewpoint.

Lonna
Thompson, the interim president of the Association of Public Television
Stations, applauded the rejection of the legislative gambit. ""The
American people have
said, time and again, that they value the federal investment in public
broadcasting," she said in a statement. "This federal
funding, which is
$1.35 per person per year, has played an important role in assuring free
and universal access to programs that inform and enrich the lives of millions of Americans in every corner of our country."

"With a new
majority in the House and many new members in both the House and Senate,
we have a responsibility and an opportunity to educate Congress
on the value and
importance of public media to an educated and informed civil society,"
said CPB in a statement. CPB is the independent agency created
by Congress to
oversee dispensation of federal funding to noncoms, which represents
only a fraction of their annual budgets, though an important one

(about 15%),
the rest coming from primarily from grants, underwriting and viewers.
"We will work closely with the other national organizations, and we
will make sure every member is informed about the public media services that could be endangered without their support." 

Rep. Doug
Lamborn (R-Colo.) introduced the bill back in June, but after Williams
was fired, GOP Whip and House Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

revived it for a vote Thursday after it won an online pole for programs
surfers would most want to cut, according to Catherine Mortensen,
communications director for Lamborn.

Lamborn
Communications Director Catherin Mortensen said that while Lamborn was
concerned about some liberal bias on NPR, his primary reason for
introducing the bill was cutting spending and NPR
was just one of a
number of issues that would be getting his and the Republican majority's
attention in the House. "He likes NPR and some of their programming,"
says Mortensen. "Does he like some of the liberal bias he perceives?
No, but the issue for him is less the liberal bias and more that this is a luxury we just can't afford right now, or perhaps ever."

She said he
had not decided whether to reintroduce the bill in the new Congress, but
added "He expects it will definitely be a topic for discussion."
 

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