Ron Schiller was recently caught in a sting exposing his view of the Tea Party (and wine). In response to this, he followed what seems to be the usual liberal defensive response: he resigned as NPR senior vice president for fundraising. The president and CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, also resigned. In an interesting contrast, when the governor of Wisconsin was “stung”, he simply went on with business as usual.
This sting, of course, provided grounds (warranted or not) for raising concerns about the public funding of the CPB (best known for NPR and PBS).
One reason to cut the CPB budget is, of course, to reduce spending and thus lower the deficit. Of course, the budget for the CPB is a minuscule part of the budget and cutting it would thus have a minute impact. As such, it would make sense to go after the larger corporate subsidies first-or at least go after them as well.
Obviously enough, the fact that the budget is relatively small is not a reason not to cut it (or eliminate it). To use an analogy, if a coffee drinker switched from going to Starbucks to making her own at home, she would save a little money. While this would be but a little money with each cup, it would still be a savings and could add up. Also, if she cuts out other things as well, the savings could end up being significant as a whole. She would, of course, want to avoid simply cutting for the sake of cutting. After all, eliminating what she spends on her thyroid medicine (for example) might save her money, but end up costing her something more important. Likewise, when cutting government funding it should be considered whether the CPB is worth the funding in terms of the public good it serves.
Another reason to cut the CPB budget is that taxpayer money (or China’s money) is being used to fund something that does not match the interests and values of all the tax payers. This sort of argument has also been employed to argue against funding for abortion, funding for wars, funding for the sciences, funding for education, and so on.
On one hand, it does have some merit. To tax people and then spend their money in ways they oppose seems to wrong them. Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience does a good job presenting this sort of argument and is well worth reading, if only for this line of thought.
On the other hand, this line of reasoning would seem to lead to the conclusion that anything anyone disagreed with should not be funded by public money-and this would seem to lead to the (apparently) absurd result that almost nothing should be funded. After all, there are surely people who disagree with just about anything. Also, it can be argued that people do give their consent to go along with the decisions of the elected officials and this means that they thus agree to such spending even while disagreeing with it.
That said, someone could consistently hold to the view that the state should not use taxpayer money to support what people disagree with. This would mean accepting that anything people disagree with would need to be struck from the budget. After all, if exceptions are made for certain things, then it would seem that any arguments given for those exceptions could be applied elsewhere. While this might seem to be ridiculous, it would certain reduce the deficit by reducing federal spending to around $0.
A third reason to eliminate the funding for the CPB is to remove it from the political arena. Since the time of Nixon, the CPB has been caught up in a recurring cycle: it is accused of having a liberal bias, its funding is threatened by conservatives and then concessions are made to conservatives. Repeat.
If the CPB were not funded by tax payer dollars and allowed to raise money through advertising and other means, then the conservatives would no longer have a whip with which to lash it. After all, the folks at Fox can say almost anything they wish because they are a private company and not supported directly by the public largess.
It might be argued that the CPB needs to be publicly funded because of its mission and nature. However, it could be replied that this mission and nature is consistent with it not being funded by the state. It could keep doing what it is doing, only without relying on the taxpayer. While it might, for example, seem odd to ads for Tickle Me Elmo to actually be shown in Sesame Street, this does seem like a viable option.
It might also be argued that the folks at the CPB should just stop being or hiring liberals who annoy conservatives. Naturally, they cannot be replaced by conservatives or we might simply see Democrats threatening to cut the CPB because of its conservative bias. As such, the viable options would seem to be to either require neutrality or more of a balance. Of course, there is still the problem that neutrality or balance might still be seen as bias.
However, the most appealing option seems to be to give the Republicans what they want: remove the CPB from the budget and allow it to become a full media corporation. If it succeeds, then the Republicans will have to be content with railing against its alleged liberal bias or perhaps even accepting “lobbying money” from it.