GOP still determined to end public broadcasting subsidies

posted at 9:30 am on March 10, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Byron York offers the good news this morning that Republicans on Capitol Hill remain committed to ending subsidies for public broadcasting, including NPR and PBS.  The defeat of the House budget bill in the Senate last night sets back that effort, but the high-profile meltdown at NPR and a potential embarrassment looming at PBS will keep momentum for the push:

After the release of the James O’Keefe sting video Tuesday, National Public Radio officials rushed to fire NPR head Vivian Schiller in hopes of slowing Republican efforts to cut federal funding for public broadcasting. But GOP leaders in Congress are vowing to push forward with their drive to cut off federal funding for National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — and they say the effort will not be affected by Schiller’s departure.

“This latest development in what appears to be an internal meltdown at National Public Radio only strengthens my resolve to eliminate all federal funding for NPR and its parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Republican who is leading the effort to defund both NPR and CPB.

“Our concern is not about any one person at NPR,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Rather, it’s about millions of taxpayers. NPR has admitted that they don’t need taxpayer subsidies to thrive, and at a time when the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that it spends, we certainly agree with them.”

Cantor is right, and it is important for Republicans to separate the scandals at NPR with the actual arguments that support defunding.  Primarily, we’re out of money.  We are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the government spends.  Under those circumstances, Congress has a duty to stop spending money on anything but its essential, constitutional obligations, no matter how virtuous or non-virtuous the recipient of such funds might be.  It certainly helps to have NPR execs acting like horse’s patoots to get the public behind such cuts, but in a real sense that should be superfluous.  Even if NPR was run by Mother Teresa and Mohandas Gandhi, we still wouldn’t have the money to fund it.

Furthermore, it’s unnecessary, and “public” broadcasting is as anachronistic as a covered wagon.  There may have been a good argument for it when television offered few choices to viewers outside of urban centers, but those days disappeared decades ago.  Viewers have hundreds of choices for entertainment, information, and education from television, not to mention the Internet, Blu-Ray, and so on.  NPR and PBS should compete in the same market for those viewers without getting a hand up from taxpayers, even apart from the fact that NPR doesn’t appear to have a high opinion of many of those taxpayers anyway.

But if the logical arguments leave you cold, well, let’s get back to the provocative examples of where the money goes.  The Boston Herald did some probing of PBS flagship station WGBH in Boston, which produces a third of PBS programming, and discovered that some people do awfully well on the public dime (via Jules Crittenden):

The review of WGBH’s 2009 Internal Revenue Service filings — the most recent available — found:

• Four vice presidents and producers pulled in more than $300,000 — and another 10 took home more than $200,000 — in pay and benefits;

• 145 of WGBH’s then-950 employees — about 15 percent — earned more than $100,000.

• Ex-WGBH president Henry Becton Jr. — now the station’s vice-chairman — made $160,873 in total compensation for working just 24 hours a week.

• Top brass pocketed more than $200,000 in bonuses.

WGBH’s $425,000-a-year CEO, Jonathan Abbott, defended the salaries, saying he hasn’t had a raise since taking the helm in 2007 and that WGBH has to compete for talent with the country’s leading media companies.

“We also benchmark all of those salaries to comparable salaries at media and nonprofit organizations in this area and nationally,” Abbott said. “If you look at my compensation relative to . . . my peers in Boston or in this country, I am . . . paid a fair wage.”

Abbott gets paid more than the President of the United States, and he’s complaining about not getting a raise?  I’d have no problem with Abbott’s salary, or with Becton’s part-time job at $800 an hour, if it came from private-sector work.  Private-sector firms have a natural tension between costs and revenue that eventually force companies to deal more efficiently with salaries and competitive pressures.  Private-sector firms have to convince consumers to buy their products or services voluntarily, which is what keeps pricing and overhead rational.  When the government subsidizes organizations like WGBH, it forces every taxpayer to be a contributor without any choice in the matter, and it allows for irrational outcomes on pricing and decisions on investment and overhead.

It’s time to bring this gravy train to an end.  If Abbott is really worth $425,000 in that position, he’ll have nothing to fear.  Let’s give him the opportunity to find out.

Apropos of nothing: Man, I still really miss Jules Crittenden’s eponymous blog.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

“Still?”

More than ever is more like it.

Bat Chain Puller on March 10, 2011 at 9:33 AM

Yes, it’s time.

I would be ok with a two or three year phase out if that would make it easier to pass.

Y-not on March 10, 2011 at 9:33 AM

“Our concern is not about any one person at NPR,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Rather, it’s about millions of taxpayers. NPR has admitted that they don’t need taxpayer subsidies to thrive, and at a time when the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that it spends, we certainly agree with them.”

BINGO. Now grow some testicles and stick to your guns.

IronDioPriest on March 10, 2011 at 9:34 AM

Piece by piece, we must tear apart every piece of the Progressive machinery. Takes great courage by all, including the citizens who must stay engaged and involved in this process. The Progressives will stay engaged, as this is their religion, their purpose. If we are to destroy this evil machine, we must stay engaged for years to come. The machinery has roots in everything that effects our lives.

Keemo on March 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM

Maybe they should bring in Walker to get it done…

PatriotRider on March 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM

Great. Now can you PLEASE go after ObamaCare?!?!?

parteagirl on March 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM

What’s amazing is, public broadcasting reports everyday on the same government that it gets funds from, and for fifty years, apparently it wasn’t considered a significant problem.

RBMN on March 10, 2011 at 9:38 AM

These actions by the GOP are so typical of white, right wing, Nazi, tea bagger zealots who hate muslims and are violent.

*comment approved by the Ron Schiller language filtering system*

Bishop on March 10, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Lets not let the repubs lull us to sleep with this. Cutting PBS/NPR funding should be a given and not a big deal. The real fight is with the unions and entitlements. Go to the wall for those issues and I’ll get giddy.

csdeven on March 10, 2011 at 9:44 AM

These actions by the GOP are so typical of white, right wing, Nazi, tea bagger zealots who hate muslims and are violent.

*comment approved by the Ron Schiller language filtering system*

Bishop on March 10, 2011 at 9:39 AM

hahaha…you should make that a daily feature in your comments!

csdeven on March 10, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Wow! If I had known the pay was that good at PBS I would have sent in my resume….I feel bad for the guy not having a raise in 3 years…can you imagine having to get by on only $425k??? Ugh….i’d have to give up so many of the little things in life….

KMC1 on March 10, 2011 at 9:50 AM

Can we also get rid of this alphabet agency while we’re at it:

National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency supporting artists and arts organizations and bringing the arts to all Americans.

I would prefer my tax dollars NOT going to pay an “artist” whose sole claim to fame is “Piss Christ” (i.e a crucifix upside down in a jar of urine) Just saying, that’s all

alwyr on March 10, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Fine. If the pubbies waffle on this, they get their walking papers in 2012. So far, for the pubbies this year, I am not impressed. They are ‘still’ chipping away at at the edges and it is about mid-March already. Maybe they should declare April 15th a Day of Mourning.

Bob in VA on March 10, 2011 at 9:55 AM

More valuable still to the taxpayers would be a sale of our stock in CPB.

levi from queens on March 10, 2011 at 9:55 AM

It’s time Big Bird learned to fly on his own. He has been in the nest long enough– Compete in the marketplace like every other broadcast company. Sesame Street is just PC propaganda aimed at toddlers.

Beaglemom on March 10, 2011 at 9:55 AM

Wow! If I had known the pay was that good at PBS I would have sent in my resume…
KMC1 on March 10, 2011 at 9:50 AM

Can you play the bongos, do you talk to trees about how they feel, do you only bathe on a weekly basis, have you read the Communist Manifesto at least 3 times?

PBS and NPR don’t hire just anyone, you need the right skill-set.

Bishop on March 10, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Oddly enough there is an ad on the right side of my screen that says: “NPR AND PBS ARE UNDER ATTACK FROM THE REPUBLICANS. FIGHT BACK!”

Winning The Future is that about????

Keef Overbite on March 10, 2011 at 9:57 AM

Even NPR’s ombudsman, defending their “How to Speak Tea Bag” feature (which is still up), admits they don’t need the money:

Repeatedly, I’ve heard people, such as Pete Wilson of Wiggins, MS, exclaim: “I refuse to have my tax dollars used for such an offensive slur.”

NPR does not receive direct funding from the federal government. Less than 2 percent of its annual budget comes from competitive grants from federally funded institutions. The rest of NPR’s budget comes from corporate sponsorship, foundation grants, investments and dues and programming fees paid by 901 independent public radio stations.

saint kansas on March 10, 2011 at 10:04 AM

All spending should be tied to surplus, no surplus, no spending,oh wait, forgot that it takes less brains to balance checkbook , than a country.

anikol on March 10, 2011 at 10:11 AM

I’m surprised these guys have a salary. I thought they all lived in a commune. You know that this subsidizing deal and the individual donations have to be a scam and that, like every other TV network, the bulk of their money comes from corporations. They just play the commercials at the beginning and the end instead of through out the shows. Another way you can tell, if their fortunes really depended on the donations of John Q. Public, they would have the middle of the road “we love everyone” patter down to a fine art. There is no way they would utter statements guaranteed to offend at least half of their revenue flow.

Cindy Munford on March 10, 2011 at 10:14 AM

WGBH’s $425,000-a-year CEO, Jonathan Abbott, defended the salaries, saying he hasn’t had a raise since taking the helm in 2007 and that WGBH has to compete for talent with the country’s leading media companies.
“We also benchmark all of those salaries to comparable salaries at media and nonprofit organizations in this area and nationally,” Abbott said. “If you look at my compensation relative to . . . my peers in Boston or in this country, I am . . . paid a fair wage.”

Paid by who Mr. Abbott? The American taxpayer subsidizing your vitriolic agenda? No thanks. Try justifying your salary with private dollars that includes a balanced budget in your business model. Should we have tears for the fact that you’ve not had a raise while millions have lost their jobs and homes while listening to the advocating of the very government policies that have put them in peril? Why should the American listener/watcher pay for the salt on their wounds delivered under the false pretense of “public information” and enlightenment? That squeaking sound you’re hearing is the faucet of public money turning off.

Rovin on March 10, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Instead of defunding CPB, NPR and PBS, how about selling it and all the broadcast licenses they hold?

TomAnon on March 10, 2011 at 10:18 AM

The infamous Mr. Schiller made a very good point;
No one owns NPR.
So no one cares if you steal the company pen or get paid $800 per hour.

But it is time for them to have a boss; their advertisers and supporters. End the Government ownership (and tax exempt status) of NPR, CPB and PBS.

(I also hear that O’Keefe got PBS.)

barnone on March 10, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Yeah, auction it off to minimize deficit.

anikol on March 10, 2011 at 10:22 AM

This is all sound and fury. It will not be defunded. The GOP doesn’t have the guts.

rrpjr on March 10, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Instead of defunding CPB, NPR and PBS, how about selling it and all the broadcast licenses they hold?

TomAnon

+1…and the first bidder should be Rupert Murdock

Knott Buyinit on March 10, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Of course, those WGBH jobs are held by union members.

Del Dolemonte on March 10, 2011 at 10:36 AM

So where is Grow Fins? He should be happy that we are bashing an evil corporation here.

Del Dolemonte on March 10, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Just Do It, NOW!

dhunter on March 10, 2011 at 10:37 AM

It’s time to bring this gravy train to an end. If Abbott is really worth $425,000 in that position, he’ll have nothing to fear. Let’s give him the opportunity to find out.

Does Al Gore’s network need a $425k CEO? Maybe he could go there. Probably get a raise, too.

Somebody call a waaaaaaambulance.

In other news, this is much juicier than what the article implies:

China reported an unexpected trade deficit in February as exports declined and higher commodity prices boosted its import bill.

I live the word “unexpected” here. We’ve become jaded to it over time, but in this case, I think its severely understated.

BobMbx on March 10, 2011 at 10:41 AM

NPR had better get that cowboy poetry program up and running stat!

forest on March 10, 2011 at 10:46 AM

This ad </a>is at the bottom of Ed’s blog. Too funny.

OmahaConservative on March 10, 2011 at 10:51 AM

A little O/T

I heard a commercial on the radio this weekend. It was for a program to help men and women learn how to date. OK, sure, why not? What shocked me was at the end the announer says this program is partially funded by the Dept. Of Human Health Services.

WHAT?

The federal govt is now paying for programs to teach people how to date? But Dicky Durbin says there’s nothing we can cut.

angryed on March 10, 2011 at 10:57 AM

WGBH’s $425,000-a-year CEO, Jonathan Abbott, defended the salaries, saying he hasn’t had a raise since taking the helm in 2007 and that WGBH has to compete for talent with the country’s leading media companies.
“We also benchmark all of those salaries to comparable salaries at media and nonprofit organizations in this area and nationally,” Abbott said. “If you look at my compensation relative to . . . my peers in Boston or in this country, I am . . . paid a fair wage.”

Well then, you won’t mind doing a little redistribution of your “fair wage” along with the rest of WGBH? Hmmmmmmm? I mean, it’s only fair and our CiC has stated over and over that this must be done. As they say, gitterdun!

sicoit on March 10, 2011 at 11:02 AM

But the COMMERCE CLAUSE SAYS PBS MUST BE FUNDED FULLY.
– in house law school troll

The UN declaration of rights says PBS must be funded
– other in house wannabe law school troll

angryed on March 10, 2011 at 11:04 AM

I’m seeing a Google ad on this page linking to a petition to “save” NPR and PBS from those wascally Wepubwicans. I wish conservative sites like this could find a way to pay the bills without allowing our opponents access through ads. Or perhaps what I really want is for Google to respect our views.

nkviking75 on March 10, 2011 at 11:26 AM

It doesn’t matter if it’s $450 million or $4.50, take it all back.

Mason on March 10, 2011 at 11:29 AM

So last night I flipped on DC area station WTOP, where they were interviewing, ever so softly, someone from NPR. I missed her name.

She said that they need to be on the public dime because the money goes to tiny stations serving far flung markets where there are not a lot of choices.

It sounded like total BS to me, in this day and age. It was a ‘think of the starving children’ argument.

My point is, however, that they are clearly going to go with the ‘think of the desperate underserved children we nobly serve’ argument.

Pay no attention to the highly compensated administrators behind the curtain.

So we (reps and tea partiers and all responsible citizens) need to respond to this canard, because I am sure it is a canard.

perries on March 10, 2011 at 11:40 AM

America has a real public broadcasting service. It’s called C-Span. It carries the proceedings of both houses of Congress, numerous committee hearings, and other events, all from a strictly non-partisan, non-ideological point of view.

PBS and NPR have never performed this civic duty in a manner that could possibly justify the expenditure of public moneys on them. Admittedly, some of their programming is very well done, biases and all. But let their listeners and viewers pay for it.

MrLynn on March 10, 2011 at 11:47 AM

I calculate $129 per hour, not $800 per hour, for Becton.

huskerjeff on March 10, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Re those executive salaries, I’d be willing to bet that if you surveyed PBS/NPR management, you would find that they are 99% white. Progs push the diversity nonsense on the rest of us, but they cannot be bothered with it themselves.

slickwillie2001 on March 10, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Morrissy: Private-sector firms have a natural tension between costs and revenue that eventually force companies to deal more efficiently with salaries and competitive pressures.

Private firms aren’t all roses and no stink, Ed. Management in publicly traded firms has learned how to stack the board to give themselves huge salaries at the expense of the shareholders who most often can’t rally enough votes to do anything about it.

That doesn’t mean I’m against cleaning up the public sector, I’m not. I want to get all rent-seeking bastards off the dole, public and private. (Think GE.)

woodNfish on March 10, 2011 at 3:17 PM