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Saturday, June 11, 2005

 

Boehlert: GOP war on PBS and NPR

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It appears the GOP is moving in for the kill on public broadcasting. In a stunning vote yesterday in the House, Republicans opted to drastically cut back on what had already been dwindling funds dedicated to public radio and television.

According to the Washington Post's page 1 story today, "A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as 'Sesame Street,' 'Reading Rainbow,' 'Arthur' and 'Postcards From Buster.'"

Even more dramatic was this move:

"In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which passes federal funds to public broadcasters -- starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million."

The CPB is an umbrella group created by Congress not only to promote public broadcasting in Washington, but also to function as a fundraiser to help produce programming. The CPB is especially important to smaller market radio and television outlets which cannot raise as much money from local donors.

If both the GOP cuts were enacted, it would mean the effective end to American public broadcasting as we have known it for the last 35 years. "The appropriation subcommittee zeroing out of public broadcasting funding is part of a GOP one-two punch to kill PBS and mortally wound NPR," Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy and a public broadcasting advocate, tells War Room.

Republicans insist the vote yesterday simply represented a belt-tightening move. But their fixation with public broadcasting comes against the backdrop of CPB boss Kenneth Tomlinson's ongoing personal crusade against what he says is liberal bias at PBS and NPR. Despite two rounds of polling paid for by the CPB which prove that allegation to be false, Tomlinson, instead of acting as public broadcasting's good will ambassador inside the Beltway, has been trash talking it for months. On Thursday, picking up on Tomlinson's attacks, Republican let public broadcasting have it. A spokeswoman for NPR, Andi Sporkin, laid the blame directly at the feet of Tomlinson, telling the Post, "We've never been sure of Mr. Tomlinson's intent but, with this news, we might be seeing his effect."

-- Eric Boehlert

[11:35 EDT, June 10, 2005]

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