Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is The GOP Killing Big Bird?

As the party has in the past, the GOP is putting de-funding PBS/NPR on the table for discussion. Seems like an easy decision but appearances are deceiving, as the arguments for continued funding point to consistently.

When all else fails, put an argument on the backs of "the children". The folks who don't want to defund anything, much less something used by most every household in the country, are quick to point to children's programming on PBS as a reason the shows must go on as they do now. Who doesn't love Big Bird and Dora the Explorer?

Here's the rub. Both of those examples, in particular, are fully capable of being self-funded. The sales numbers of trademarked goods bearing those two franchises names are staggering. Billions of dollars are spent for all the merchandise available for the little ones.

It's the American way.

I would hate to go back and add up all the purchases I made for our son as he grew up and enjoyed all the characters on PBS. Quite clever marketing there. We enjoyed some wonderful shows together, my son and I. From Sesame Street to Reading Rainbow to Wishbone to Magic School Bus. All fun and presenting learning experiences for the viewer. Did we go out and buy that stuff for Christmas and birthday gifts? You betcha. It's marketed as 'educational' toys and we parents fall for it. No harm, no foul. I would make the same purchasing decisions if I had it to do over.

Our son is in college now and I am not up on all the current popular child-grabbing programming now, other than what I hear from younger children in our extended family. I know Dora is a star. I know there are continuing law suits to protect all the trademarked names, too. Why are they trademarked? To retain the money acquired from that popularity.

When the majority flipped back to the GOP in the House of Representatives in November and actions such as the firing of Juan Williams occurred at the hand of NPR, a new effort was made to defund NPR in the House. It failed, of course, as the Democrats were still in the majority in the lame duck session.

The proposal was this week’s winner of the GOP’s YouCut site, which lets the public select which cuts they would like to see receive an up-or-down vote on the House floor. To do so, Amanda Terkel explains, they try to make a procedural vote on an unrelated piece of legislation the vote on the YouCut item. Democrats easily overrode the attempt, voting 239-171 to close debate on the underlying measure and move on, without voting on the NPR proposal.

One bill is in the works that would only deal with the federal funding of NPR.

Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, is crafting legislation that would defund NPR. However, it is not a task that is as easy is it sounds.

"Still, cutting off federal money just to NPR is a complicated task. There isn't any congressional appropriation that says 'Funds for NPR.' Instead, federal money goes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which received $420 million from the government in 2010. About $90 million of that went to public radio. The corporation gave part of that $90 million to NPR, and part of it to local public radio stations, which turned around and used the money to buy NPR programming. NPR has also gotten money from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Departments of Education and Commerce."

NPR claims that only about $3 million of its total annual budget comes from the federal government. Lamborn believes it is much higher, in the "tens of millions of dollars" range.

Lamborn's bill would not cut off funding to local public radio stations but merely forbid them from buying NPR programming with federal funds. NPR has accused Lamborn of interfering with freedom of the press, which Lamborn termed "bizarre," since local public radio stations would still be free to buy NPR programming with private money.

In the case of NPR, when the defunding question arises, the response from them is usually that the federal funding is small and not so important. Fine. Then cut it. Unnecessary funding has to begin somewhere. Just as with family budgets, every action builds to larger results.

In the case of PBS, the argument can be made that it is no longer as necessary as it once was in the area of children's programming. In the early days, there was no cable television and there was a very limited selection available to television viewers. Now there are hundreds of channels available around the clock. Rural viewers own satellite dishes and have more exposure to news and entertainment than ever before. The fact is, there is certainty that both PBS and NPR can self fund.


The Heathen Republican said...

Chop him up, deep fry him, and soak him in wing sauce. The government shouldn't be funding anything that the market can finance on its own.

It would be nice if our legislators would build-in escape hatches instead of letting funding run along forever. For example, the PBS funding could've said they receive government funds until 1) they earn enough to cover their own expenses or 2) the market has provided 2 or more comparable alternatives. With an escape hatch like that, there wouldn't need to be a vote for de-funding, it could happen automatically.

The same could be used for a stimulus bill: These funds are available until GDP grows 2% or more for two consecutive quarters. Then we cut it off automatically and leave the money in the bank.

Cajun Maverick said...

There's a reason why liberal radio needs government money... it's not commercially viable. Conservative talk radio can hold its own.