NPR’s biggest advocate in the Senate stands behind public broadcasting funding

Chris Moody Contributor
Font Size:

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, one of public broadcasting’s strongest advocates in the Senate, will continue to support NPR’s access to taxpayer funding despite comments from one of the outlet’s former executives saying NPR would be better off without it.

“Oh no, I think the cuts in public broadcasting could be devastating,” Udall said when told of the comments made by NPR’s former senior vice president for fundraising Ron Schiller, in which he said NPR would be “better off” if it lost its government funding. “I don’t agree with it.”

Udall had not yet seen the video.

The New Mexico Democrat, who defended taxpayer-subsidized media in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters earlier this month, insisted the subsidies were necessary to spur innovation in the industry.

“I don’t think we should make [cuts],” he said. “I don’t think it’s wise. A lot of the innovation we see from broadcasting comes from the dollars we leverage out of public broadcasting funding.”

The release of an undercover sting video showing Schiller blasting conservatives while conceding that cuts would be good for the network has renewed calls among House and Senate Republicans to deny the organization funding. NPR officials promptly responded Tuesday, saying they were “appalled” by Schiller’s comments.

Taxpayer funding makes up about two percent of NPR’s budget through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and even more for local member stations, which pay dues to NPR. House Republicans already voted to deny funding for the CPB in their funding resolution, which is currently being debated in the Senate.

There is a possibility, however, that some Republicans could choose to side with public broadcasting and keep the funding going, at least through the fiscal year.

“I think there might be bipartisan support in the Senate to keep a solid level of funding for public broadcasting,” Udall said.

Email Chris Moody and follow him on Twitter