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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Why Support National Public Radio?

A reader’s opinion (with which I agree).

My friend Emil Pavone recently received an email urging that he sign a petition to support PBS, NPR, and the National Endowment for the Arts.  That email and his response follow.

But first, a couple of observations. 

Number one is that, according to, the email is a hoax.  NPR denies that Nina Tottenberg made the alleged statement, speculating that it was spread by college students “testing the power of the internet.”

That in no way negates Mr. Pavone’s response.

Number two is that Nina Tottenberg is a fairly typical NPR news reporter.  It was she who, in a collaborative effort with feminist organizations, unearthed Anita Hill and coached her for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas.  Tottenberg’s intention was to keep off the Federal judiciary anyone not favoring the form of legalized murder euphemistically known as abortion. 

Too often, such liberal-socialist political views dominate NPR and PBS.  The Federal government should not be using taxpayers’ money to support that sort of thing.

Herewith is the apocryphal email. 

Subject: National Public Radio needs you…

On NPR’s Morning Edition, Nina Tottenberg said that if the Supreme Court supports Congress, it will, in effect, be the end of the National Public Radio (NPR), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) & the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). PBS, NPR and the arts are facing major cutbacks in funding.

In spite of the efforts of each station to reduce spending costs and streamline their services, some government officials believe that the funding currently going to these programs is too large a portion of funding for something which is seen as not worthwhile.

This is for anyone who thinks NPR/PBS is a worthwhile expenditure of $1.12/year of their taxes. The only way that our representatives can be aware of the base of support for PBS and funding for these types of programs is by making our voices heard.

Please add your name to this list and forward it to friends! who believe in what this stands for. This list will be forwarded to the President and the Vice President of the United States. This petition is being passed around the Internet. Please add your name to it so that funding can be maintained for NPR, PBS, & the NEA.

Judith Ruderman
Vice Provost for Academic and Administrative Services
Duke University

Mr. Pavone’s response:

You asked that I add my name to a petition seeking government support for National Public Radio.

As a lifelong fan of classical music, the first thing I did on renting an automobile in whatever market my work took me to, was set the car radio to the local public radio station. ?Upon returning home, I usually sent a small contribution to each such station as a way of saying thanks. ?

That was then. ?Now is now.

I still listen to public radio wherever I am because I know I?ll usually find a steady supply of good classical music. ?Here in St. Petersburg my radio is almost always tuned to 89.7FM and, when I?m at my computer, I usually have the station streaming in over the Internet.

But I don?t contribute to the station, nor to any other public radio or television station.

I began to think critically about the value of such stations as I heard and saw them, over a period of years, become more and more vociferous and extreme regarding political and moral matters. ?I asked myself why scarce broadcast frequencies should be allocated to these out-of-the-mainstream propagandists, and why public tax dollars should be devoted to their support. ?After considerable reflection, I concluded that continuance of these stations cannot be justified at this point in time.

As things stand, these stations operate in tax-exempt competition to commercial broadcasters, which might be justified if no one else would offer their product, i.e., classical music, in-depth domestic and foreign news, history, science, artistic drama and comedy, etc. ?But there is no doubt in my mind that all these things would be offered by commercial broadcasters if they weren?t forced to compete with tax exempt, tax subsidized outlets. ?

When we first considered moving to the Tampa Bay area, I was enthusiastic about the fact that there were two classical music stations broadcasting here; the public radio station and a commercial station. ?Obviously, the commercial broadcaster couldn?t succeed against a tax-exempt competitor, and they were forced to drop the format. ?I?m convinced that a free market would find stations covering all of the niches now defaulting to public radio. ?Note what?s happened in television, as the plethora of cable choices has led to broadcasting in every conceivable genre, and the more conservative approach at Fox has resulted in liberal outlets like CNBC scheduling conservatives like Joe Scarborough. ?

Commercial competition is a beneficial mechanism. ?The existence of tax-exempt, tax-subsidized broadcasters damages that mechanism.

For the reasons above-cited, and with all due respect, I won?t be adding my name to the petition seeking continued support of National Public Radio.