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NPR and PBS Funding


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#41 Cunningham

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 11:24 AM

And I am not so much interested in the corporate vs. government issue in this thread. I am more interested in the principle of benevolence that has expressed itself both corporately and federally in public broadcasting funding for years. I can't take these few conservatives pleas to cut the federal side of this benevolence very seriously. Yeah, it costs a few hundred million dollars a year. But I doubt someone like Palin would bat an eye at spending the same amount of money in one day in Iraq.

I think that the ideological divide comes in the perception of NPR as benevolence. I certainly see it as such, but I don't think that everybody does.

Edited by Cunningham, 14 February 2011 - 11:25 AM.


#42 Darren H

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 12:10 PM

I mentioned this on Jeffrey's Facebook post yesterday, but I think the past three weeks have been a great rebuttal to those who argue that the market will inevitably fill the space that would open up if PBS and NPR disappeared. Time Warner is not in any way obligated to produce quality journalism, but its Board of Directors is required by law to maximize profits. Overseas bureaus are not profit centers, so they've been systematically shuttered over the past decade, which is why our for-profit media were so ill-equipped to report on the recent events in Egypt. It's why Al-Jazeera's English stream was overwhelmed by traffic. It's why CNN's "Don't Miss" story right now is, "Chinese men learn to pick up women."

This is certainly an ideological question. My politics on specific issues are all over the partisan map, but my ideology is essentially classic liberal. I think the purpose of the State is to provide services (military, educational, economic, medical, social, and so on) that serve the common good and that, borrowing from Rawls, serve as a foundation for a society that is of greatest benefit to those who are least advantaged. Obviously, the markets play an essential, irreplaceable, and occasionally-benevolent role in this system, but I also think that profit motive is often a distorting lens when viewing policy decisions. I expect those of you who are of a different ideological bent to disagree. And I'm okay with that. ;)

But, then again, this whole budget-cutting debate is all just political theater anyway. The next month will be dedicated to arguments over programs that constitute less than 10% of our budget. Until people on both sides of the aisle start using words like "social security," "Medicare," "military spending," "retirement age," and/or "tax increases," we won't make a dent in the deficit.

#43 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 12:46 PM

There is a difference between the two, one of which has more potential for abuse than the other.

Why? ... I just think it is naive to think that news broadcasting funded purely by corporate interests is somehow more neutral than news broadcasting funded purely by federal interests.

One is the exertion of the power of force, and one is not. It's less of a question of neutrality. Of course any news station, radio program, or newspaper is going to be friendly and responsive to whoever holds its purse strings. But there's a huge difference between a news service that has to produce a product of high quality enough that others want to buy, and a government funded news service whose motivations to produce a product are unrelated to quality.



Thus, the argument is that voluntarily funded news broadcasting is better than involuntarily funded news broadcasting. There is a difference between the two, one of which has more potential for abuse than the other.

You are kidding right? Either one has equal potential for abuse.

While either may have equal potential for abuse, I think the consequences of that abuse are more likely to be worse with government sponsored news.

Every once in a while, I have to step back and remember that I take for granted some presuppositions that others don't. Presuppositions: The government has the power to use force over others to make them do things. This is more power than simply having to persuade others to do things. The more power you possess, the more potential there is for abuse. This is then why a large number of Americans are philosophically against, for example, government subsidized news.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this discussion is how it reveals what might be the most significant, grass roots-level ideological divide in 21st century America: who do you trust more? The market or the government?

Although, it's pretty clear that the American government was built around the ideology of trusting government power less. Those guys weren't reading John Milton, Adam Smith, Samuel Rutherford, John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, and William Blackstone by accident.

Just seems to make sense: a corporate stooge faces competition from other corporations; a government stooge will seek to eliminate competition. . . . But taken to extremes, the potential for damage by newsmedia sponsored by corporate interests is less than that sponsored by government interests. The power of the market vs the power of the gun.

Those are statements of ideology.

Yes, they are. The question of whether we're "cool" with our government subsidizing the news is a question of ideology that John Locke would have answered one way and Robert Filmer would have answered the opposite way. So why is it that referring to statements of political ideology perturbs some people? This is a question of what the government should or shouldn't do.

And I am not so much interested in the corporate vs. government issue in this thread. I am more interested in the principle of benevolence that has expressed itself both corporately and federally in public broadcasting funding for years. I can't take these few conservatives pleas to cut the federal side of this benevolence very seriously. Yeah, it costs a few hundred million dollars a year. But I doubt someone like Palin would bat an eye at spending the same amount of money in one day in Iraq.

Actually, I think the argument at this point is that we all need to band together to cut government spending of every kind, benevolent spending, military spending, criminal spending, pork spending, you name it, it's high time we cut down. Read a couple articles about what the last couple bailouts have been doing to the federal national debt. It's like the taxpayers have been forced to own a large credit card, the credit limit has been overdrawn long ago, and yet somehow the government is still using that same damn credit card. So when questions of funding even little things like NPR, David Wojnarowicz, or other more extravagant acts of financial whimsy arise, Americans are starting to find it exasperating.

Have the arts ever really needed to be funded by the government? Some of us say no.

#44 Ryan H.

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 12:53 PM

I don't consider journalism one of "the arts." Journalism and art strive for different things and serve different functions.

Edited by Ryan H., 14 February 2011 - 12:55 PM.


#45 M. Leary

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:03 PM

and a government funded news service whose motivations to produce a product are unrelated to quality.


Is this true for the BBC?

Yes, they are. The question of whether we're "cool" with our government subsidizing the news is a question of ideology that John Locke would have answered one way and Robert Filmer would have answered the opposite way. So why is it that referring to statements of political ideology perturbs some people? This is a question of what the government should or shouldn't do.


Let's be clear that this is not an issue solely about "government funded news." It is also a discussion about Car Talk, Splendid Table, Anything Krista Tippett Does, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, This American Life, Annoying Music Show, etc...

#46 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:24 PM

Not to mention Word Girl and Wild Kratts.

Anyway, I still am not convinced that the statement I made earlier is really grounded in a particular ideology (though maybe I'm the naive one). Darren, appreciate your expanded thoughts. I don't have (well, certainly I have not) expressed an opinion on the government funding cuts of PBS etc. I will say it's a smokescreen of a fight, given we're talking in the US of a $100,000,000 cut on a $1,300,000,000,000 budget.

My assertion is the extreme of government sponsored news is potentially worse than the extreme of corporately sponsored news. I think this is the case because we have demonstratedly corrupt news organizations that cooperate with governments to hold their people in subjugation. I think that's the worst case scenario. I cannot think of a corresponding worst case scenario in a corporately sponsored news outfit--it all ends up at a conflict of interest that lies to the audience.

MLeary's point that the benevolence of publicly funded programming allows for the airing of views that do not sort a market dynamic is well taken--though my suspicion is that ratings and consumer feedback plays a role in NPR and public radio content as well. How do we have the checks and balances that maintain proper stewardship?

Edited by Buckeye Jones, 14 February 2011 - 01:26 PM.


#47 Darren H

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:27 PM

Read a couple articles about what the last couple bailouts have been doing to the federal national debt.


The bailouts themselves, once the money has been repaid (often with interest), will end up costing tax payers around $30 billion, which is a drop in the bucket compared with, say, the on-going costs of Reagan's bailouts of the Savings & Loans. The main sources of our growing deficits are not discretionary spending and bailouts but the escalating costs of entitlement programs and military spending, combined with the Bush/Obama tax cuts. Everything else is sound and fury.

What is this board's current policy re: political discussions, by the way?

Edited by Darren H, 14 February 2011 - 01:31 PM.


#48 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:28 PM

Read a couple articles about what the last couple bailouts have been doing to the federal national debt.

What is this board's current policy re: political discussions, by the way?


Type fast until the thread gets locked. ;)

#49 Ryan H.

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:33 PM


Read a couple articles about what the last couple bailouts have been doing to the federal national debt.

What is this board's current policy re: political discussions, by the way?


Type fast until the thread gets locked. ;)


Posted Image


:P

#50 M. Leary

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 01:38 PM

Fantastic, Ryan. I would apportion a small percentage of my tax dollars to the creation of helpful memes.

Edited by M. Leary, 14 February 2011 - 01:40 PM.


#51 Christian

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 02:02 PM

Let's be clear that this is not an issue solely about "government funded news." It is also a discussion about Car Talk, Splendid Table, Anything Krista Tippett Does, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, This American Life, Annoying Music Show, etc...

I'm not sure it's as clear as you think it is. If you go to NPR.org and click "Programs," you'll see that many of those programs aren't listed.

We are talking about NPR and PBS funding, aren't we? That's what the thread title says.

#52 M. Leary

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 02:15 PM

At NPR I see:

news

Morning Edition
All Things Considered
Fresh Air
The Diane Rehm Show
On The Media
On Point
Talk of the Nation
Talk of the Nation Science Friday
Tell Me More
Weekend Edition Saturday
Weekend Edition Sunday

Also heard on NPR stations:
Marketplace APM

arts & life

Car Talk
Radiolab
Snap Judgment
Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Also heard on NPR stations:
This American Life PRI
A Prairie Home Companion APM

music

All Songs Considered
From The Top
JazzSet
Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz
Mountain Stage
Song of the Day
The Thistle & Shamrock
World Cafe
World of Opera
special series
StoryCorps
Planet Money
Picture Show
Krulwich Wonders...

At APM I see:

ENTERTAINMENT
A Prairie Home Companion
The Writer's Almanac
The Splendid Table

NEWS/TALK
Being
Marketplace
Marketplace Morning Report
Marketplace Money
American RadioWorks
The Story

MUSIC
Performance Today
SymphonyCast
Pipedreams
American Routes
Composers Datebook
Classical 24
Classical Live
Saint Paul Sunday
Classical music


Otherwise, not sure who funds PRI. So I guess the radio part of the discussion is about the above outlets.

#53 Christian

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 02:23 PM

Otherwise, not sure who funds PRI. So I guess the radio part of the discussion is about the above outlets.

Right. That's what I was getting at with my earlier references to American Public Media, et al. An earlier link explains a bit about what's in the bill, but I'm not sure that's an exhaustive summary, nor am I sure where the bill stands, if it's been updated, etc.

We can be pretty sure that anything that gets through the House -- and, I'll admit this: I never thought I'd see the day where the House would take up such legislation, much less have the cajones to pass the thing, which is why I've pooh-poohed this debate for years -- won't make it through the Senate, and, if it somehow did, wouldn't get Obama's signoff. Although he's been makin' noises about cuts with the release of his budget, so who knows?

I find it amusing that I'm apparently the only A&F supporter of Pacifica Radio -- where the real Crazy Lefties can be heard! :) (It gets some of its funding through CPB, so it would be affected by these cuts.)

Edited by Christian, 14 February 2011 - 02:23 PM.


#54 Anna J

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 03:10 PM

Topics that are political in nature but not about art at all are generally prohibited. Some fall in a grey area, and we take them case by case.

This discussion is legit, because at root it's about the arts, and the importance of art in the public square.

As always, keep it civil. Big Sister is watching. ;)

#55 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 03:22 PM

Again, just so we're clear, this entire discussion is taking place with the given caveat that eliminating federal funding for NPR and PBS will not be the end of NPR or PBS. You wouldn't figure this out by reading the opposition pieces on their websites, but federal funding of both has been g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y decreased over the years to where it is now a small percentage of their budgets, all to the point where their existence ultimately depends upon private support.

This would be an entirely different discussion, IF we were discussing the very existence of NPR and PBS, and IF they could not exist without government support.

Darren, the recent news coverage of Egypt was not an example of the free market failing where government funded news could have succeeded. News blackouts only occur by political force, and historically, news coverage of revolutions, during those revolutions, is often limited because journalists have limited immediate access to that sort of thing. In other words, the free market's biggest weakness is always encroachment by political power, but to call that a failure of the free market is ... well ... ironically questionable.

Ryan, point taken, government funding of the arts or of journalism is two entirely different things, perhaps just questioned on the same fundamental philosophical grounds.

M. Leary, it's not that government funding of arts and/or journalism can't result in high quality products on some occasions, it's that the same products privately funded will still exist regardless, just with additional extra motivation to improve themselves to keep up with the competition. If somehow, the small percentage of federal funding to NPR is cut, those favorite programs you listed will still continue as long as there are people who want to listen to them.

Anna said this discussion is relevant to the importance of art in the public square. I'd suggest that there is a reasonable historical argument to be made that, while the manipulation of government power can both be harnessed in order to suppress the role art plays in the public square and to encourage the role art plays in the public square, the restraint on government power results in less of the former and more of the latter.

#56 Christian

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 03:35 PM

Not sure this is exactly related (NEA, not NPR), but...

President suggests slight reduction in NEA funding

In the administration's fiscal 2012 budget request, released Monday, the National Endowment for the Arts was penciled in for $146.2 million.

That number, which now has to be debated by Congress, represents a 13 percent reduction from the fiscal 2010 appropriated level of $167.5 million. Since the fiscal 2011 funding is contained in a continuing resolution, the agency is working with its 2010 numbers.


#57 Darren H

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 04:26 PM

News blackouts only occur by political force

I'm not talking about news blackouts. Not at all. I'm talking about journalism and the fact that for-profit media are incapable of producing some forms of journalism because they have sold off their overseas bureaus. The mainstream media's idea of covering Egypt is putting Anderson Cooper somewhere in the vicinity of Tahrir Square, where he can get beat up.

the same products privately funded will still exist regardless, just with additional extra motivation to improve themselves to keep up with the competition.

I agree with this comment only if by "improve" you mean "increase profits." The word "improve," when used to describe the collecting, reporting, and editing of news, has traditionally meant "more expert," "more accurate," "more timely," "more thorough," "more insightful." I can't believe that anyone who has watched American news coverage over the past decade or two would argue that our media have improved by that definition.

Edited by Darren H, 14 February 2011 - 04:31 PM.


#58 Ryan H.

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 05:20 PM

I agree with this comment only if by "improve" you mean "increase profits." The word "improve," when used to describe the collecting, reporting, and editing of news, has traditionally meant "more expert," "more accurate," "more timely," "more thorough," "more insightful." I can't believe that anyone who has watched American news coverage over the past decade or two would argue that our media have improved by that definition.

No kidding.

#59 Christian

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 05:22 PM

I just received this from my local PBS affiliate:

The Future of WETA and All Public Broadcasting

Make Your Voice Heard Now by Calling Your Congressional Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote in the next few days on legislation that could cut 100 percent of federal funding for public broadcasting. These proposed cuts pose a significant threat to WETA and public broadcasting as a whole.

Your opinion matters — call your representatives in Congress to let them know how you feel about federal funding for the educational programs and services public broadcasting brings to all citizens.


I do think it's interesting that those most impassioned in our discussion about the zeroing out of public broadcast funding like to cite Car Talk, This American Life and other programs heard on NPR, while very few will go to bat for PBS. Jeffrey did trot out Mr. Rogers, and I suppose others are screaming about "Big Bird," as they did during the same debate in the 1990s. But it's remarkable how far PBS has fallen in the interim in terms of quality.

I guess the answer to better PBS programming is more money.

Edited by Christian, 14 February 2011 - 05:23 PM.


#60 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 05:23 PM

I mentioned this on Jeffrey's Facebook post yesterday, but I think the past three weeks have been a great rebuttal to those who argue that the market will inevitably fill the space that would open up if PBS and NPR disappeared. Time Warner is not in any way obligated to produce quality journalism, but its Board of Directors is required by law to maximize profits. Overseas bureaus are not profit centers, so they've been systematically shuttered over the past decade, which is why our for-profit media were so ill-equipped to report on the recent events in Egypt. It's why Al-Jazeera's English stream was overwhelmed by traffic. It's why CNN's "Don't Miss" story right now is, "Chinese men learn to pick up women."

Most news outlets were not the only ones caught flatfooted on this. CIA, State, and the administration were too. Nevertheless, there still are some foreign bureaus from American media extant and the Middle East is a constant nrews source. There are reporters and offices there, probably Cairo too because of Egypt's standing in the Arab world. Social media had the lead on this because social media were used most by protesters until Mubarak cracked down and cracked down on western reporters as well. NPR was using social media like everyone else. In addition, I was checking out Fox News (largely "Special Report") where their reporter on site and his camera man were both gravely injured. By the police. There was plenty of non=NPR reporting.

But, then again, this whole budget-cutting debate is all just political theater anyway. The next month will be dedicated to arguments over programs that constitute less than 10% of our budget. Until people on both sides of the aisle start using words like "social security," "Medicare," "military spending," "retirement age," and/or "tax increases," we won't make a dent in the deficit.

Leave aside that not all of those terms have as much of a hold on the budget blowout, or are all arguably on equal terms as to constitutional mandate, what makes Public Broadcasting of all hues and umbrellas here in the U.S. so questionable as to funding is the way it is done and how profits from those programs are handled. The producers of children's shows keep the profits of merchandising despite receiving subsidies, for example. Why subsidize when one can find funding through Barney, Tele-Tubby, and Kermit/Miss Piggy marketing. I'd buy a "Morning Edition" mug easily, as opposed to getting one as a throw in on a $101.90 pledge (WDET is found on 101.9 around here), though not a signed photo of Nichelle Norris despite the hot factor. There are plenty of ways to make up the paltry subsidy. And besides, regardless of the various large price tags throughout the budget, it would seem to me that on mere prioritizing, Public Radio, TV, etc would be way down the list of real federal funding priorities. Otherwise, the nickle-and-dime argument can be used for anything and everything. I hear that all the time from Lansing and Ferndale City Council too.