Does NPR Have a Liberal Bias or…

Corporation for Public Broadcasting logo.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

…could it be the free market working to make NPR appear to have this liberal bias?

As Republicans attempt to defund public radio and television, there is a lot of talk on the periphery critical of taxpayer dollars supporting liberal political views. 

This is one of those times when I think a thirteen-year-old might be able to answer this complaint best:  Whatever.

Republicans are attempting to defund everything, after all, in their blind effort to gut government.  That’s another story, another issue…and a very hypocritical and sad one at that.  So it should surprise no one that they would take a shot at public broadcasting in their bombastic and insincere attempt to control spending one short-changed penny at a time. 

Conservatives — you know the people who are self-made free-market successes regardless of whatever advantages good fortune and progressive taxpayers preceding them might have contributed — make a big issue about dollars flowing where demand justifies the investment.  So maybe it is the free market that is to blame for NPR’s soi disant liberal bias.

I will argue that the NPR audience makes it appear liberal and not the other way around; it needs not have anything to do with any specific NPR agenda, but everything to do with smart, objective broadcasting.   One just fits well with the other.

Let’s say, for example, that NPR’s broadcasting therefore attracts an intelligent and sophisticated audience that might tire of people like Beck or Limbaugh.  (I find that conclusion very refreshing and highly believable, by the way.)   And let’s say it is that sophisticated and inquistive audience, as much as it is the quality of the NPR, that is attractive to the sponsors who underwrite the programming.  Much of NPRs funding comes from this sponsorship, so something is working here.

Sponsorship and corporate underwriting accounts for the biggest source of NPR funding right after fees paid to NPR for programming by local stations.  (The Federal Government contributes no funding directly to NPR.)  Corporations and foundations support NPR to enhance their brand by associating with the positive qualities of NPR.  They also know they are reaching a critically engaged and active part of the US population, one that generally is more educated and informed.  More positive qualities, more reason to associate with the NPR brand and its audience.  There is no bias here but delivering the solid good programming that has built the NPR brand. 

Therefore, could it simply be that intelligence and information have a liberal bias?  Can NPR  be blamed or branded as biased if it merely provides the objective facts that an intelligent public seeks?  Should we all be required to be paranoid half-wits for the sake of political parity?

If you follow the money, private corporations and endowments appreciate the value NPR delivers.  What frightens the GOP so much?

NPR Revenue

Today I listened to a radio show caller complain that all the money supporting public broadcasting came from progressive think-tanks and left-leaning businesses.  The caller might be surprised to know that Fox Broadcasting contributes to NPR and Fox is not commonly regarded as a company with a liberal slant. 

Citibank and Bank of America also contribute as do a long list of insurance and finance companies.  They are there because there is value being associated with NPR.  It is valuable to their brand.

Of  course I don’t want to make the sweeping generalization that all finance and insurance giants are morally corrupt anti-progressive corporate behemoths — I wouldn’t dream of it! — but the argument that Kashi and REI represent inherently progressive industries is just as much of a careless generalization.   

So if all of this money is coming to NPR from private sources anyway, what’s the harm in cutting funding?  The real issue here is control and it goes through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) which does receive Federal funding and does give grants to stations to purchase broadcasting from NPR.  The proposed cut would affect CPB, not NPR and PBS directly. 

The cuts that Congress is considering amount to about $400 million in aan era when trillions spent on tax cuts and unfunded wars is routine.  That’s where your budget mess is, people!  This attack on CPB funding is a sideshow typical of the conservative right. 

Who doesn’t think this is an ideological battle?  It is all about politics, not money.  If conservatives were serious about the budget, they would not be wasting time and effort on little issues like these.   Moreover, they would not be aligning with people complaining about bias as a means of supporting their budget-cutting plans.  You don’t hear any remorse from the right about the “unfortunate” but “unavoidable” loss of a great American success story.  They don’t even try to be diplomatic about their conservative bias.  Why is the left so damn apologetic about its agenda? 

As I understand it, defunding CPB would not spell the end to all public broadcast stations (it could mean the demise of smaller stations in more remote areas, however), but it would add a layer of burden on an already difficult budget.  Nevertheless, any compromise to what has become a valued American resource will be a great setback.

In recent years, NPR was rated as the most trusted news source in a national poll.  People respect the quality of the news and information NPR provides.  The stations also play an important public service, providing news and information as well as educational broadcasting in an industry that is increasingly dominated by commercial interests. 

I’ve written exclusively about NPR, but who would like to see Big Bird donning a Kids-R-Us t-shirt or Oscar living in a garbage can sponsored by Waste Management?  Think it is absurd?  Really?  Talked to a GOPer recently?

Republicans mostly failed to divide this country on social issues, but they are succeeding now through the financial crises that is the outcome of policies they promote.  Perhaps I am a hopeless cynic, but it is hard to see how entrusting the common good to Republican ideas and leadership is going to turn things around in this country.  Attempts to defund CPB is only one more example the GOP’s petty politics.  We deserve better.


3 thoughts on “Does NPR Have a Liberal Bias or…

  1. Tour Guide Post author

    I take my shots at conservatives, but I don’t think they are undeserved. It is less the individual and more the discourse that I take issue with, but…

    I will stand behind the argument that conservative attempts to stop funding CPB is about ideology, not money. And I believe the only answer to why that is the case has everything to do with conservatives forwarding anti-CPB legislation is that they “don’t get” NPR whether intentionally for political purposes or just out of habit.

    Plenty of GOPers appreciate NPR. Those taking shots at NPR are in the minority, but they’re getting away with it in large part because they have misleadingly framed this in financial terms.

    Thanks for the comments.

  2. Pingback: Prioities and Values « A Little Tour in Yellow

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