Republicans Take Fresh Aim At Noncoms

Rep. Lamborn reintroduces legislation to defund public broadcasting
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Rep.
Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) has reintroduced legislation to defund public
broadcasting.

He introduced
noncom defunding legislation in June with no luck, but after NPR fired Juan
Williams over comments about Muslims last fall, GOP Whip and House Majority
Leader-elect Eric Cantor (R-Va.) revived that effort for a vote in the lame
duck session after it won an online poll for programs surfers would most want
to cut.

That effort
also failed to gain traction again in the lame duck session still controlled by
Democrats.

Lamborn, now in
the House majority, is reintroducing the legislation. He indicated in a
statement this week that he thought the funding of both NPR and PBS should be
cut. "Government-funded broadcasting is now completely unnecessary in a
world of 500-channel cable TV and cell phone internet access," he said,
pointing to the fact that "over 99% of Americans own a TV and over 95
percent have access to the Internet."

Lamborn actually
re-introduced two new bills, H.R. 68, that would cut all federal funding for
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) starting in 2013 (noncoms are
funded several years in advance in an effort to insulate them from political
pressures). H.R. 69 is targeted to NPR, only ending funding for the radio
service, also starting in 2013.

The bills,
which were being circulated Friday to collect more signatures, had 15
co-sponsors (H.R. 68) and nine co-sponsors (H.R. 69).

"Congress is
playing politics with a public trust that hundreds of millions of Americans
rely on for news, arts and entertainment, and for educational programming for
our kids," said Craig Aaron, Free Press Action Fund managing director.
"It's disgraceful that leaders of the ‘people's House' routinely threaten
the nation's most trusted and respected sources of news just to score a few
partisan points.

Craig also
urged public broadcasters to speak out. "Public media leaders need to take
a stand, too. You don't put a bully in his place by handing over your lunch money
and hoping he'll go away," he said. "You have to fight. And when you
do, millions and millions of your viewers, listeners and fans will have your
back."

Cutting
noncommercial broadcast funding was one of the recommendations floated by the
co-chairs of a bipartisan presidential cost-cutting commission (http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/).

Republicans
have repeatedly proposed cutting CPB funding, arguing that the money goes
to support their liberal critics. But the financial meltdown and ballooning
deficit has put a new target on spending across the board, which adds more fuel
to the fire.

Christine
Mortensen says Lamborn's effort is all about budget cutting, calling the
funding "a luxury we can no longer afford." She says Lamborn
likes some noncom programming, but says it can stand on its own as a viable
private market commodity."

Lamborn's bill
comes the same week that NPR Senior VP Ellen Weiss, the service's top news
executive, resigned following an NPR review of William's firing. That was even
though the report found that William's October firing was legal and that NPR
donors and interest groups "played no part in influencing the
decision," according to NPR reporter David Folkenflik in a story
about the resignation.

NPR's
ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, has already said the firing was hasty and poorly
handled, though she said she supported NPR's conclusion that Williams, who
was also a commentator for Fox News, "had become more of a liability than
an asset."

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