Politics

NPR defunding calls heat up in first week of new Congress

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter

National Public Radio might face a real defunding threat in the 112th Congress – especially following its widespread criticism for firing Juan Williams.

Congressman Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, reintroduced two bills that would slash taxpayer funding from NPR to zero. Lamborn said that while he likes “much of NPR’s programming, the fact is, it is luxury we cannot afford to subsidize.”

“Congressional Republicans must show the American people that we are serious about cutting spending and reducing the size and scope of the federal government,” Lamborn said in a statement. “We simply cannot afford to subsidize NPR, or any other organization that is not doing an essential government service. The government must learn to live within its means.”

The two bills, H.R. 68 and H.R. 69, serve slightly different purposes: H.R. 68 is more general and would end all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), NPR’s parent company, whereas H.R 69 would end all funding for just NPR after fiscal year 2013.

NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller, who said she takes calls for defunding “very seriously” in early November, lost her 2010 bonus as a penalty from NPR’s board of directors for her mishandling of the Williams debacle.

Lamborn’s staff says in its press release that, “NPR claims that less than 2 percent of its total annual budget comes from the federal government. But when the indirect revenues NPR receives in licensing fees from the federally-funded local stations are included, that number jumps to an estimated 20 percent,” which may be why NPR is now taking these calls “very seriously” instead of saying taxpayer dollars are barely helping the organization.

Lamborn’s staff added that private individuals and organizations have historically made up for the funding government doesn’t cover in public broadcasting, citing left-wing activist billionaire George Soros’s $1.8 million donation to NPR last October.