I used to be a regular NPR listener. Despite its pervasive anti-capitalist motives, I enjoyed the thoughtful, intelligent programming. My favorite programs were This American Life with Ira Glass, interviews with Terry Gross (see e.g. her interview of Gene Simmons), Car Talk, and the news to some extent. My wife and I even contributed.
This all changed after the bursting of the housing bubble and the financial crisis. NPR couldn't seem to get a clue. For a few weeks (or perhaps it was months), they couldn't identify a reason to save their lives. When everyone else was citing the irrationality of homeowners, lenders, securities, government guarantees and the Fed, NPR simply wallowed in perceptual level news reports of the latest events. Then they found the cause. It was the unregulated derivatives market! They seemed to have a yureka moment when they found some element of capitalism that might have been the cause. Never mind that the securities underlying the derivatives had government guarantees, guaranteeing irrationality and bubble behavior. They ran with it. Ira Glass produced an anomalous and excellent program exposing the inner workings of the whole mess called Giant Pool of Money, but the rest of NPR programming was abysmal. I stopped listening and switched to podcasts and conservative AM talkshows.
The reason they couldn't find a clue is that they're government supported of course. Whenever a company, industry or institution becomes regulated or supported by the government, three things happen. First, the organization starts seeking special exceptions, regulations on competitors and additional handouts. Since politicians now have the power to grant these exceptions and handouts, they can be paid to pass such measures and you have widespread corruption. The corruption comes not primarily from the organization seeking special treatment, but from the politician having the power to grant that treatment. Second, the organization, with its focusing shifting off the market and towards Washington, loses its effectiveness. Third and most insiduously the organization becomes an advocate for the government. A state supported industry is a state supporting industry. They know what side of the bread is buttered. You can see this everywhere, from schools, to the pharmaceutical industry to public radio. And that's why NPR could not implicate government policies in its coverage of the housing or financial crisis.
Thats why NPR should be defunded. Its a tool of the state, supported by our tax dollars. Why should we have to support an institution that despises us?
The Juan Williams flap is an excellent catalyst for reexamining NPR. Williams was recently fired from NPR for expressing, on his own time during a Fox program, his discomfort at seeing muslims on a plane with him. He even explained the source of that discomfort, that most muslims have a primary allegience to Islam and Sharia law and very little allegience to the United States. Both his discomfort and his reasoning are perfectly valid and deserving of discussion, yet toeing the government line that "Islam means Peace," NPR chose to fire him instead. They of course kept on staff the many reporters who have paid homage to the world's worst mass murderers. Bravo to Williams for calling for NPRs defunding despite his liberal credentials.
Roger L. Simon in Pajamas Media has proposed the "Juan Williams Law":
I have a humble suggestion for a piece of legislation that I think the public would appreciate seeing enacted as quickly as possible.A Juan Williams Law is long overdue. Thanks to Juan Williams (and NPR) for getting the ball rolling.
This legislation would outlaw all government funding for any news organization, whether private or non-governmental in nature. This restriction would include not only National Public Radio but all domestic news outlets, whatever their ideology or bias, or even if they claim to have none. (I am not talking here, of course, of international operations such as Voice of America, which have the legitimate task of representing American interests abroad.)
The legislation would further outlaw any future stimulus funding or bailouts for news organizations, again irrespective of ideology.
It’s easy to understand that government financing of the news is at best unseemly and at worst totalitarian. The possibilities for corruption are myriad. I am not one to dwell on what the Founders intended, but I am reasonably certain they didn’t want a Fourth Estate that was bought and paid for by the government, even in part.
Additionally, the natural tendency of some of the press to ingratiate themselves to power is only exacerbated when that power has an economic lever over them. That lever must be removed. NPR, PBS and others like them should be responsible for their own financing. I’m sure they’ll be fine with Soros, et al. The American taxpayer should not be forced to pay for the delivery of news that is perforce filtered through a point of view with which they do not necessarily agree. This should not happen now in a time of economic extremis, nor should it happen in good times. It is simply not democratic and cannot be made to be.