News Columns & Blogs

Pro/con: Should Congress stop funding National Public Radio?

It has never been easier to find out what's happening in the world, and it's never been easier to get numerous perspectives on the issues of the day.In light of the information explosion, it isn't at all clear that subsidies for public broadcasting – like those that go to National Public Radio – are necessary or wise.Today – in contrast to 1970, when NPR was founded – anyone with access to an Internet connection also has access to a virtually unlimited amount of information from a wide variety of sources. NPR adds little of additional value to the mix.There also are a couple of important facts about NPR that should give us pause.First, NPR programming, like most media programming, leans left. Forcing people to fund programming with which they disagree – even at very low levels – is not much different from forcing them to help pay my pastor's salary.Second, NPR listeners tend to have higher-than-average incomes. Subsidies are not needed. If they value NPR, listeners could easily write out checks to cover its costs.Art Carden, Stanford University

Some conservative members of Congress are seeking to de-fund National Public Radio, but these legislators might want to think twice about that effort. NPR is – believe it or not – a favorite of many conservative listeners. In a survey by the research firm GfK MRI, 28 percent of the network's listeners self-identified as conservative or very conservative and 25 percent identified as middle-of-the-road. Millions of informed conservatives regularly listen to a network that some critics describe as a service aimed at a prosperous liberal elite.Some members of Congress who seek federal de-funding of NPR point to what they say is the network's liberal bias in news reporting. I don't hear it. I hear a scrupulous attempt to be – may I coin a phrase? – fair and balanced.More affluent public radio stations could pay for NPR programs from other sources, like listener contributions. But some smaller stations would not have enough of those non-federal funds.National Public Radio, through local public radio stations, serves listeners across the country, from the largest cities to the smallest rural communities. Congress should reject all legislation aimed at eliminating NPR's federal funding.Fred Andrle, independent journalist