Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Are Taxpayers Funding any Media Enterprise?

A conservative activist ran a video sting to demonstrate that National Public Radio (NPR) is a biased organization, titled toward liberal orthodoxy.  Wow!!!! What a surprise. 

James O'Keefe has struck again.  This time he engineered a phony meeting with an NPR executive, pretending to represent a Muslim group wishing to make a huge donations to the public radio network.  The video showed just how politically biased the NPR executive is, and the embarrassing tape has ultimately led to the resignation of Vivian Schiller, NPR's chief executive officer.

The reaction in media outlets is rather predictable.  Those print and electronic media organizations that lean liberal are denouncing the sting operation while conservative media outlets are saying "we told you so."  The real issue here, which has not been examined in most news media reports, is why are taxpayers funding any media enterprise?

The parent company of NPR and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was created in 1968. The development of PBS and  NPR followed a few years later.  The rationale for public broadcasting was to provide a diversity of programming at a time when there weren't that many privately-owned broadcasting networks.  For instance, in 1970, there were only three privately-owned television networks and a small number of independent TV stations in major cities.

More than 40 years later, technology has changed the broadcasting landscape significantly.  Due to the proliferation of cable and satellite television as well as satellite radio, there are multitude of choices for any viewer or listener.  One can find all the liberally biased shows you want at MSNBC, or you can tune into the Fox News Channel to get a more conservative point of view. 

There is nothing wrong with any television or radio station having a specific point of view as long as it is privately owned as both Fox and MSNBC are.  There is, in my opinion, a big problem with taxpayer money going to a television or radio outlet that propagates a particular viewpoint.  There really is no reason for taxpayer money to fund any media enterprise, whether it be liberal, conservative, or anything in between. This is especially valid now that we have local, state and federal deficits exceeding record levels.

There is even a broader concept involved in this controversy that is presently not being explored by anyone in the media.  How many taxpayer funded programs are there that once seemed like a good idea but no longer deserve government funding as technological advances and social and economic dynamics have changed over time?  We already know of two:  NPR and PBS.

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