Talk of the Nation: NPR’s Federal Subsidy

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House Republicans announced last week that they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly “YouCut” contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated. “When NPR executives made the decision to unfairly terminate Juan Williams and to then disparage him afterwards, the bias of their organization was exposed,” the two Republicans said in a statement.

NPR has never been under more pressure. President Obama’s fiscal commission has recommended eliminating public broadcasting subsidies. Republican Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is trimming his state’s public broadcasting arm by as much as $6 million and has called for a phase out of the rest. Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis is collecting signatures from colleagues for a letter calling on NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller to resign.


One signatory, Arizona Republican Trent Franks, has an idea for how NPR can cope with budget cuts. He notes that left-wing philanthropist and political empire builder George Soros last month gave $1.8 million to NPR, thus “invalidating any claim [NPR has] to journalistic neutrality or professional credibility.” Mr. Franks says that given Mr. Soros’ demonstrated generosity and vast wealth, “it’s time we left the entire job of funding NPR to him, and that, accordingly, NPR should never, ever again receive one more penny of taxpayers’ money.”

NPR says it’s “imperative” that the organization continues to receive federal funding, which is passing strange since NPR also claims it gets no more than 3 percent of its total budget from taxpayers. But Rep. Doug Lanborn, a Colorado Republican, says that number is suspect because NPR’s financing structures is so opaque and complex. Mark Browning of the American Thinker, a conservative online publication, used publicly available information to estimate that NPR’s $166 million budget is actually made up of more than 25 percent of taxpayer dollars and that its member stations across the country haul in another 40 percent of public funds. NPR says those numbers are “inaccurate.”

A useful exercise for the oversight committees of the new GOP-controlled House would be a hearing on how much taxpayer funding NPR receives and whether the organization could survive without it.