One More Reason To Defund NPR, or “Boy, Did I Ever Go Into The Wrong Profession!”

The primary reason to end funding for NPR and PBS is that the government shouldn’t be funding competitors of private broadcasting organizations.

The second reason is that anything public broadcasting does that is sufficiently popular and valuable  (“Sesame Street,” “The Prairie Home Companion,” “Car Talk,’ et al.) will be picked up by commercial stations, and those programs that are not should not be underwritten by taxpayer dollars.

The third: NPR’s audience is narrow and affluent, and doesn’t require a public subsidy, particularly when cutting down the budget deficit is a national priority.

Finally, NPR can’t be trusted with public funds. It claims to be objective, but isn’t; it is mismanaged, and isn’t appropriately frugal with taxpayer funds.

This comes under the final category. The salaries of the top NPR talent do not reflect restraint in expending precious resources.  For example, the hosts of “Morning Edition,” Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep, received compensation of $405,140 and $356,499, respectively. “All Things Considered” anchor Robert Siegel earned $358,653, while Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon got $364,465, according to NPR’s latest 990 form.

It didn’t take a James O’Keefe sting to show how out of touch NPR staff is with the real world. When some listeners  complained that the host of a one-day a week program like Simon could get his princely salary, his response was relayed by NPR’s ombudsman on the network’s website:

“There are a few other people in public radio who earn more, both at weekly and daily programs. Most everybody in commercial broadcasting earns a lot more.

That last sentence had Washington, D.C.’s WMAL’s syndicated political talk show host Chris Plante (and I’m sure many other radio hosts) sputtering and fuming with rage last week, and reciting his own salary history as a radio veteran. “Most everybody in commercial broadcasting earns a lot more” than $364,465? Could Simon possibly believe that? NPR’s ombudsman relayed this ridiculous claim without noting, as an ombudsman ought, that it really isn’t ethical to lie to your listeners like that. Instead, she added this:

“Readers might be interested in this piece in the Columbia Journalism Review that notes CBS anchor Katie Couric is paid the equivalent of what it costs to produce two NPR shows, “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.

Why would that interest them, and what does it have to do with NPR, since…

  • Couric’s show, bomb that it is, attracts an audience of millions of viewers that swamp the combined listenership of both of those NPR programs.
  • The CBS Evening News is television, not radio.
  • It earns commercial income, and NPR’s shows do not.
  • Couric is not being paid with taxpayer funds
  • She’s grossly overpaid anyway, and
  • The fact that she is overpaid does not and cannot justify Simon’s salary.

So really there is a fifth reason to defund NPR. Its personnel are arrogant and ooze delusions of entitlement, and are willing to deceive the public in order to keep misusing its money.


15 thoughts on “One More Reason To Defund NPR, or “Boy, Did I Ever Go Into The Wrong Profession!”

  1. I agree with points 3 through 5, although I am not sure that they necessarily imply that NPR should not be funded or whether it just means that NPR should be reformed so that it appeals to a broader audience and employs people who don’t have the same sense of entitlement.

    As to point 1, are you against government competition with private industry in general? Do you think the same about the US Post Office, AMTRAK, etc. or is there something special about broadcasters or the media that should lead to the exclusion of the government?

    As to point 2, it is possible true that private companies would be happy to pay a lot for NPR and PBS’s successful programs. I wonder whether private companies would be able to create new programs that could meet with similar success. Hopefully, public broadcasters will be able to invest in the sort of high quality (but less immediately lucrative) programming that private broadcasters are unwilling to create.

    • Sure broadcast is special. Mail delivery is a core government function; we can argue about Amtrak, but at least with no Amtrak, there is no train service along the Atlantic corridor. But the government is superfluous in broadcasting now, in both TV and radio.
      It’s a catch 22…the more PBS and NPR appeals to a general audience, the more redundant it is; the more elite, the less justifiable. PBS, as I mentioned in the original post about this, now shows re-runs of The Dean Martin Show, while Masterpiece Theater is pretty much dead. Why should taxpayers finance re-runs of Dino?

  2. Sure, it’s a lot of money. But Scott Simon has sweated it out in the trenches, is at the top of his game, and near the top of the journalism game in any format. The man has great talent and skill and as a listener I am pleased he chooses to remain on NPR.

        • Are you kidding? Like every other radio station! Ads. Or if it wants to stay non-profit, listener contributions. Or it can become a satellite network. This is hardly revolutionary. If it can’t succeed on that basis, then obviously there’s no need for it. I’ll contribute. But nobody who doesn’t listen should have to pay a cent, not through taxes, not at gunpoint.

          There is no logical justification for public support of radio and TV stations, not in this economic climate, not with the debt, not with such a wide range of commercial programming options.

            • Good question. I’m not a big fan of public funding of theater, because it warps the content and the art. But there is a difference: theater has no viable economic model. Without somebody giving money to theaters, there would be no professional theater, because it cannot survive in box office alone, and still be affordable. That’s not true of radio and TV. It’s not a good analogy.

              • But isn’t saying that “theater has no viable economic model” basically just saying that the public will not pay what it costs to produce quality productions. In that case, And if the public won’t pay, why should the product exist?

                Or, shouldn’t we just interrupt serious theater programming with commercials? I can see that. Hamlet modified to allow luctative product placement deals. Or chopped up with cliffhangers followed by commercial announcements.

                These seem to be what you are suggesting Public Broadcasting do to support itself.

                And there are models of viable theater. It’s called dinner theater I think and they successfully put on 30 year runs of crowd pleasers like the Moustrap and the Fantasticks. They just don’t happen to put on shows that are interesting or important.

                So, I think the analogy holds up perfectly well. There are some things that merit public support. And in my view NPR is one of them.

                • Then start a public trust, Peter. Go to your state representative. Go to an alumni association of a college that participates in PBS. There are many options. But don’t try to demand federal participation. That should never have happened in the first place. It’s unconstitutional.

                • You are being dense. If we want theater to be available to all (and not just rich people), and there is good reason to have it, culturally and educationally, it probably needs some level of public support. NPR and PBS are not theater, nor a medium or art in themselves—they are fungible entities that have private sector equivalents that fund themselves perfectly well without picking the taxpayer pockets.

                  It is a lousy analogy, because there is an audience for theater that cannot afford what it costs.(No theater exec gets what NPR pays its top talent, by the way) That is not tru of either NPR or PBS. For your comparison to make any sense, you would have to show that 1) what they provide is essential 2) that it isn’t available elsewhere 3) that it is unique, and 4) that it couldn’t exist without public support. None of the four is true, except for, perhaps, the last—and since the first three aren’t true–who cares???

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