Take That, Big Bird!

Gov. Bob McDonnell could make good this week on aims of the Republican-dominated House of Delegates to slash state funding for public television and radio.
To be sure, a number of revenue-starved states have cut funding to their public television radio stations by at least $23 million this fiscal year, according to the Association of Public Television Stations.
McDonnell’s plan would phase out $2.2 million for public broadcasting of the $8.2 million now planned in the proposed 2010-2012 budget.The ultimate goal would be to cut state funding altogether for public tv and radio. A final decision could come as early as Wednesday as the General Assembly gathers to consider final tweaks to a $77.7 billion budget over two years.
True, the conservative governor has made it plain that times are tough and lots of things face cuts that were heretofore considered off limits.
But when one considers McDonnell’s spawning ground of Regent University and his mentor televangelist Pat Robertson, the move seems a little too curious.
Public radio can provide excellent coverage unmatched by commercial networks. Their global stretch is impressive. The depth is real. One example is NPR’s coverage of the 9/11 events which I find still haunting to this day.
NPR, however, is thought by some on the right wing to have a “liberal” bent since it deals with issues often left alone by outlets such as “fair and balanced” Fox News. These include the problems of the poor and outcast, a tough look at the private sector, especially banking in the light of the 2008 crash, detailed probes of civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and issues relating to gas and lesbians whom many right-wing and/or “Christian”stations demonize.
For an example of the suspicion, look no further than the neo-Neanderthal editorial pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch which slammed NPR for labeling as “anti-union”Massey Energy. The Richmond-based coal firm has been called to task repeatedly for safety and environmental concerns. A Massey mine was the scene of the worst mine fatalities in 40 years last week. However, if the RTD knew anything about West Virginia, where the disaster took place, it would know that union struggles are every bit a part of coal mining as methane gas. Among Massey’s notoriety is its efforts to quash union organizing, thus eliminating another layer of potential review that might have saved 29 lives April 5.
Naturally, canning Virginia funding for public broadcasting is going to be in the gun sights of the conservative House of Delegates, which also sees NPR as a dangerous threat to their version of the truth.
Cutting the funding wouldn’t kill public broadcasting in Virginia, but it would hurt. By some accounts if the House’s original version of the cuts happened, the Community Ideas Station based in Richmond which serves other markets in Charlottesville, the Southside and Northern Neck, would lose 17 percent of its budget. Public TV and radio execs say services would most definitely be affected. The DC area might be shielded since stations such as WETA and WAMU are bigger deals with greater access to money.
To be sure, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would continue to fund the stations, which would also get money from their now-ongoing seasonal fund drives. Some members of the state Senate have said they’d try to push the effort back.
But at a time when Mainstream Media is cutting back dramatically on reporting and commercial radio dials are dotted with the dogmatic likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and his ditto heads, thoughtful Virginians stand to lose with McDonnell and the House’s action.
Peter Galuszka
Author’s note: I had to revise the figures which I took from an inaccurate Richmond Times-Dispatch story. I confirmed them with State Budget Director Dan Timberlake. I apologize. PG

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26 responses to “Take That, Big Bird!”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    In a discussion with one of my conservative friends about the declining quality and increasing partiality of the news, I told him I had canceld my cable and newspaper subscriptions, because I got all the news I need to know from NPR.

    I actually thoght he would have a stroke of apoplexy.

    This was at lunch, and the look on his face and his color brought the house down with laughter, before he realized I was pulling his leg.

    Maybe NPR should organize a reality truth or consequences show where the contestants are all politicians and viewers vote for their favorite political candidates.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I listen to NPR from time to time and have been interviewed a couple of times by NPR on different subject. It tends to be liberal, but I don't see that as the problem.

    Virginia is broke. The feds are broke. Why not prioritize spending and eliminate funding for things that are generally regarded as less important? Public radio and TV take hits.

    Lots of us in the private sector have been taking some really big hits. A couple of good friends of mine, who are elected officials of different persuasion, recently reminded people that, while it's tough on public employees who have not had raises in some time, many in the private sector would love to have the same earnings that they did two or three years ago.

    Except in the mind of Fred Hiatt and his crowd, there is no divine right to public funding. Given the realities of the state budget, I'd rather see the limited resources go to education, public safety, transportation than to public broadcasting. But then, I also want to see tax subsidies to the real estate development industry cut too.


  3. Groveton Avatar

    NPR is as liberal as Fox News is conservative.

    I'd be interested in one verifiable example of NPR taking a conservative position on an issue.

    I don't watch Fox News because I think they present a ridiculously biased position. I feel the same way about Rachael Maddow. Ditto for NPR. The difference is that I don't have to pay for Fox News and Rachael Maddow. Now, I won't have to pay (as much) for NPR.

    Good job Gov. McDonnell.

    While I am sorry to see Big Bird on the chopping block I'd be happy to see another big bird fly away. Namely, Virginia State Senator Janet "Big Bird" Howell. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until Nov. 2011 to remove that cartoon character from public view.

  4. Groveton Avatar

    Alternative to NPR …

    WMZQ – 98.7 on your FM dial. Many of my friends and I here in Fake Virginia never listen to anything else.

  5. Accurate Avatar

    NPR is boring and as liberal as the day is long. It has long been the sweetheart of liberals, in my opinion, it is the liberal counterpart on radio of the New York Times (a lying, nasty rag). About the only time I listen to NPR (radio or TV) is when I'm having a hard time falling asleep. In this time of economic hardship, time to throw this excess baggage off the ship. NPR – 95% boring, 5% information (that I can get elsewhere).

  6. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    McDonnell's cuts of public broadcasting need to be seen in the context of cuts to arts and cultural groups of all stripes. Subsidies to private, not-for-profit organizations simply is not a core function of government. I think he is totally justified.

    If you think NPR is so wonderful, Peter, why don't you pony up and contribute? Maybe you already do. Then chip in an extra $20 next time.

    Personally, I agree that NPR news coverage is left leaning, but I find it pretty nuanced, and I enjoy listening to it. I feel like I'm getting the intelligent liberal's view of the world. My wife donates, and I might even chip in a few bucks to help keep it going.

    In a world with hundreds of cable channels and thousands of blogs and websites, I don't see any compelling public purpose for government to subsidize NPR and PBS.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I'd be interested in one verifiable example of NPR taking a conservative position on an issue.

    My idea is that it is the same as with cost estimating. If you take a position before you report out the price, then you are almost certain to have distorted the price.

    I too, have the impression that NPR is left leaning, but I can't think of any story in which they have overtly taken a liberal position. They don't come out and say they are infavor of keeping Roe v Wade, for example, but they might only interview people who are opposed to overturning it.
    NPR gives me more news about Israel than I need to know, which is one clue as to their leanings. One thing NPR has in its favor is that it can focus on a topic for more than 30 seconds without being interrupted by a teaser for the next story or a commercial. And, NPR has informational programming that is non-political, or not overtly so, like nature and health, or news from foreign nations. Also, NPR accepts money from the CATO institute, among others.

    I agree with Groveton, Fox is the conservative gong show. Fox either doesn't seem to discriminate between the news and the opinion of the reporter, or they switch back and forth freely and quickly.

    The conservative shows like Beck and Riley seem always to be agitated and angry.

    Rachel Maddow is agitated too, but her style is more humorous, being long on irony and contradictions. I think her show does more homework, because they will dig out contradictory clips and show them back to back, so you can make your own conclusions.

    Whether I watch the liberals or the conservatives I get more the impression that they are ramming something down my throat than they are inviting me to dine.

    America Right and America Left on satellite radio are more of the same.

    To hear some people describe it NPR only caters to the "farleft".

    Jennifer Harper, Washington Times reporter and friend of Newsbusters, gives us a revealing look at how far left our taxpayer funded National Public Radio network has gotten itself these days. Even when they try to go a little toward the conservative side of the debate, they get lambasted by their audience, angered that they had the temerity to air conservative views. Of course, the only reason they would get such a rude reception from their own audience is because they have garnered only a far left listenership as a result of their far left programming. After all, if they had a balanced listenership they wouldn't get deluged by angry emails when they aired conservative content. ………
    And here is the main point. The NPR audience would not have gotten so exercised against this scant few hours that NPR devoted to a conservative viewpoint if that audience hadn't become assured by past programming that they wouldn't be accosted by those views inimical to leftist group think."


    That is an interesting piece of circular logic. Why is a balanced listenership important unless you think the numbers on both sides of an issue are balanced? Conservative commentators will tell you what "most Americans" think. So by this reasoning, if NPR was targeting a balanced listenership they would HAVE to lean left. Surely they have SOME conservative listeners, so why no email from that side?

    1) NPR gets left listeners because it is left leaning.
    2) NPR is neutral but gets left listeners because they are a majority.
    3) NPR tries to be neutral but actually they are in left field.
    4) Cponservatives have madeup their mind and NPR can never get it right.

    It would be interesting to sit down with an hour of each and count the number of times they use a pejorative adjective to describe the other side.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    The NPR program "Morning Edition" aired four consecutive days of interviews with conservative thinkers in a segment they dubbed "Conversations with Conservatives."

    Story Continues Below Ad ↓

    The roster consisted of the Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform; talk-radio host Glenn Beck; and David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    If you google "left leaning" NPR you get 25,500 hits

    If you google "right leaning" FOX you get 25,500 hits

    But then FOX isn't "subsidised.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    A Measure of Media Bias

    "To compute our measure, we count the times that a media outlet cites various think tanks and other policy groups.[1] We compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same think tanks in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. By comparing the citation patterns we can construct an ADA score for each media outlet.

    As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, one liberal and one conservative. Suppose that the New York Times cited the liberal think tank twice as often as the conservative one. Our method asks: What is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign the New York Times. "


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Mullainathan and Shleifer (2003) give theoretical reasons why the media should slant the news exactly as consumers desire.[6] The idea is that if the media did not, then an entrepreneur could form a new outlet that does, and he or she could earn greater-than-equilibrium profits, possibly even driving the other outlets out of business. This is a compelling argument, and even the libertarian Cato Journal has published an article agreeing with the view: In this article, the author, Daniel Sutter (2001), notes that “Charges of a liberal bias essentially require the existence of a cartel (431).”



  12. Anonymous Avatar

    possibly even driving the other outlets out of business.

    That's what FOX is doing to NPR, no?


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Should have been:

    If you google "left leaning" NPR you get 25,500 hits

    If you google "right leaning" FOX you get 47,400 hits

    But then FOX isn't "subsidised, so they can do whatever they want.


  14. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Here is what WHRO has to say.


    Our local high school has cable TV and FM Radio stations that are part of a vocational program for those interested in broadcasting. If what WHRO says is true, then this program would take the hit instead of the public stations.

    To be honest, most of the time the school stations transmit junk or reruns of the last school board meeting.

    One would think that there would be a way to improve the schedule through NPR/PBS and maybe give these students some real life experience instead of public funding separate systems, especially since the schools jointly own WHRO.

    WHRO looks at it as a slash of funding, I see it as a chance to improve their process.

  15. Groveton Avatar

    Is Roger Altman Jim Bacon's pen name?


    Note: I actually know the Evercore guys. Ignore them at your own peril.

    In the article Roger says the economic decline started under Bush and Obama is only responsible for 15% of the deterioration. Now, I know Roger Altman knows math. So he must know that Bush was president for 8 years or 96 months. And Obama has been president for 15 months. So, the two have been president for 111 months. That gives Obama 13% of the tenure and 15% of the problem.

    Like I said LarryG – both parties are utterly corrupt and Obama is only increasing the trajectory of misery.

  16. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Groveton, Overall, I agree with what Altman says, although I think it's ridiculous to give Obama 15% of the "blame" and the rest to Bush. As I explained in a post a month or two ago, both parties are hip-deep in the deficit doo-doo. The entitlement crisis has been building for decades. Everyone knew things were going to get worse when the Boomers started retiring, but no one did anything. Obama did not create the age wave. Either did Bush. Partisan finger pointing only distracts from the real problems.

  17. Groveton Avatar

    JB – I believe that the problems were started by FDR and have been continued or accelerated by every president and Congress since. So far, Dear Leader has done nothing to solve the problem. If anything, he has slightly increased the trajectory of doom.

  18. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    If one is looking for the ‘first cause’ it comes long before FDR.

    The stage was set by the 1824 (he lost), 1828 and 1832 (he won) campaigns of Andrew Jackson. This is especially important to understand in the context of tomorrow’s Earth Day anniversary.

    Bacon is right.

    Every administration since U. S. Grant (my great, great grandfathers partner in a hardware store) share the blame. Harding, Coolidge and Hoover plus every administration since EACH deserves special scrutiny for specific actions that set the current unsustainable trajectory.

    On the NPR issue:

    For those who have not yet read PART TWO of TRILO-G this may help.

    When the Second Estate (Enterprises) bought up the OLD Fourth Estate and turned MainStream Media into Enterprises, those offended by the result used their political leverage to created First Estate (Agency) support for Third Estate (Institutional) Media – NPR, etc.

    Both Enterprise (MainStream) Media and Agency supported Institutional Media are now trapped by their respective audiences in specific ideological spectrum positions as noted in a prior comment.

    The so called ‘independent media’ (a small segment of Institutional Media) are also boxed into ideological spectrum positions by their subscribers, donors, patrons and supporting Institutions.

    Some like High Country News do a real service in their topical / geographic domains, others not so much.

    In the meantime citizens and Households (the NEW Fourth Estate) have NO source of reliable information upon which to base decisions concerning their individual AND COLLECTIVE self interest in the marketplace and in the voting booth.

    When will this change? When there emerges a New Citizen Media at all scales of human settlement representing the full spectrum of interests in the New Fourth Estate.


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    The stage was set by the 1824 (he lost), 1828 and 1832 (he won) campaigns of Andrew Jackson.


    Mark your Calendar: RH and EMR agree on something.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    I'd like to see what percentage of blame each president should take for the current situation, using Grovetons formula, if you start with Andrew Jackson.


  21. Groveton Avatar

    Several quick points during the intermission between first and secons periods of teh Capitals playoff game.

    1. I am mystified at the anti-Jackson sentiment. Old Hickory was the only president in US history to pay of the national debt (even if it lasted for only a fleeting moment). He canned the Second Bank of the United States which was a genetic precursor to the Creature from Jekyll Island – the Federal Reserve Bank. What exactly did Jackson do to deserve such rancor?

    2. I did not invent the blame scale which hold that 15% of the current deficit mess is attributable to Obama. That was from the article I posted. I merely calculated that Obama's reign of terror to date has comprised 13% of the Dear Leader – Dubya tenure. Since the author of the article seemed to be trying to defend Dear Leader with his 15% calculation I was suggesting that it is a hollow defense.

    3. The Tyson's Corner re-development hearing is being held tonight. I am guessing that TMT will be there. I am hoping he may even speak about the matter during the citizen comment time. In any regard, I hope to red his comments on the matter. If it is considered too local for BR TMT is welcome to post his opinion (unedited) on my blog.

  22. Groveton Avatar

    Caps tie up the game with 6.3 seconds left in teh second period (a shorthanded goal at that!). So, another quick question for the BR crowd …

    What about a VAT tax?

    I've always liked the idea. It penalizes buying rather than earning. Cuts consumption.

    For the record, I don't like taxes in general but it seems to me that a VAT tax is a "less bad" option than many other options.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton – I was, indeed, at the Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing on Tysons Corner – or, at least until about 10:15. I'm still mulling over what I saw and heard. I'm not yet ready for a full set of comments.

    I do think it's appropriate for BR because, as Planning Commission chairman Peter Murphy stated, what happens in Tysons is very important to Fairfax County and to all of Virginia given the tax dollars flowing south.

    I do, however, think that Commissioner Walter Alcorn's plan that would limit the planning period to 20 years and cap density (before the next planning period) at 84 million square feet without imposing specific FAR, is much better than either the Task Force's "Vision" or the staff recommendation. Alcorn's plan does need some modification, IMO.

    The 84 million cap (indeed, just getting to 60 million) requires expansion of the Dulles Toll Road. The County has stated earlier that a 3-to-5 lane expansion of the DTR is needed. Lately, however, realizing how problematic such an expansion would be, the County is proposing to add but a single new lane in each direction, along with dynamic pricing on the DTR that would remove 10-20% of the peak traffic volume. That raises issues for the MWAA Dulles Rail bonds that are largely being paid by DTR tolls and the impact on other roads as much of the 10-to-20% of the traffic leaving the DTR would go elsewhere – which would likely be yet another traffic disaster.

    I believe the DTR cannot be expanded (some agree; others disagree). If no expansion is possible, a lower than 84 million cap is needed. Other additions to the Alcorn framework would help as well. But this does present a path to sustainable development.

    Most of the developers/landowners who spoke whined and asked for more and more and more incentives for them to build. Attendance by Task Force members was light. More later and perhaps, elsewhere.


  24. Anonymous Avatar


    As I recall Professor Risse spells out very clearly why Old Hickory laid the cornerstone of the current trajectory in The Shape of the Future.

    It had to do with the image of infinte resources and the right of every citizen to exploite regardless of the collective impact.

    You are right on, however, about VAT.

    But that is just the tip of the iceberg to get citizens to pay the full cost of their current activities.

    By the way you are two days late. The Caps won game four going away last night.


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    In the know.

    I know what PBS does as far as education. And, I can tell you that there is no greater value for the money spent in our schools than the money spent through Education Services at the local PBS stations. The small amount of money that is provided to Education Services ends up saving local public schools millions over the cost that they would have to spend to hire outside services to fill the gaps. Its a great investment in education for a small price. Regardless of what you think of NPR, or PBS. I invite anyone to research, and look into the "free" services to the public education schools. You will see that the small state grants provide to the local PBS stations is the best investment. Measure the value receivedd in return. Virginia can not afford not to have the education features provided.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    It penalizes buying rather than earning. Cuts consumption.

    Well, if it cuts consumption, won't that make it that much harder to earn anything, as well?

    The VAT tax is one reason Euroean coutries prouce less GDP per capita than the US.

    They consume less and they produce less. Production and consumption are joined at the hip.



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