Last updated on 2011.03.19
As usual, Congresswoman Kristi Noem did what her bosses told her yesterday and voted to prohibit federal funds from going to National Public Radio, either directly or through local stations paying NPR dues or buying NPR programming. Rep. Noem parrots the bushwah about establishing fiscal stability and having all sorts of other information outlets:
Things have changed over the years as far as having different places that we certainly can get our information in this day and age. I'll tell you that doesn't mean that people don't value public radio, public TV &ndash they certainly do and in South Dakota it's very important to people, but I also think there's a unique opportunity here to stop some of the federal funding that has gone there and allow it to become more of a privately funded enterprise and entity, because I think that that's going to be more responsible in the future [Rep. Kristi Noem, interviewed by Kealey Bultena, "Noem Votes to Eliminate National Public Broadcasting Funding," SDPB, 2011.03.17].
Noem's vote really has little practical effect other than to kill a unique news source in South Dakota and other rural areas:
What a silly exercise. Pulling the plug on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting won't save that much money: $420 million out of a total $3.83 trillion federal budget. And it won't accomplish the GOP's goal of shutting down NPR.
What Republicans don't seem to understand is that funds to CPB are not passed directly on to NPR or PBS; instead, they are given to local stations, which can then choose to use, or not use, their funding to buy programs from NPR and PBS. In real life, NPR gets only 1 percent to 3 percent of its budget, indirectly, from CPB.
NPR and PBS will survive without federal funding. So will public broadcasting stations in bigger markets, with a large listener/contributor base. The real victims will be local stations in smaller, mainly rural, markets, without such a substantial membership base, which depend on help from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — and without which they'll simply have to close their doors [Bill Press, "Saving Big Bird—and Jim Lehrer, Too," The Bill Press Show, 2011.03.18].
Bill Press points out that he's speaking as a talk radio guy against whom NPR directly competes... and he still acknowledges that NPR and PBS provide quality programming unmatched by the free market. Amidst the din of Fox News and MSNBC, Press says NPR and PBS provide "calmer, more balanced reporting, right down the middle."
Rep. Noem's vote wasn't really about saving money: she has supported much more costly and wasteful programs like farm subsidies for folks making over a quarter-million dollars. It's just a petty, partisan trick:
The CBO [Congressional Budget Office] has scored this bill," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif). "˜It does not save a penny. This means that this legislation does not serve any fiscal purpose, but it does solve an ugly ideological one. This legislation is not about reforming NPR. It is about punishing NPR." [Keach Hagey, "House Passes Bill to Defund NPR," Politico:On Media, 2011.03.17]
But sticking it to NPR was so important that Noem supported calling an emergency vote and violating her own party's vaunted rules of giving 72-hour notice on any vote. This bill was posted on Tuesday. So much for Speaker Boehner's promise (but that broken promise is nothing new).
It's really very simple: Congresswoman Noem doesn't want her South Dakota constituents listening to anything but Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the plethora of conservative boosters available across the sparse prairie on our crackly airwaves. Having voices of reason checking the propaganda that cushions Noem's fifth-grade worldview is intolerable. (Besides, all those big words Nina Totenberg uses to explain Supreme Court rulings hurt Kristi's brain too much.)
Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-New York) puts the full silliness of this vote in proper context: