The Republicans' assault on public broadcasting touches something near and dear to my heart. Both my television and my car radio are likely to be tuned to a public broadcasting station as anything else. Wanting to defund such treasures as Terry Gross' Fresh Air or Sesame Street just smacks of the ongoing campaign to dumb down the populace, much like their oh-so-reasonable suggestion to "teach the controversy" of creationism vs. evolution. So I find myself feeling very protective of public broadcasting...especially when Breitbart's stooge James O'Keefe decided to take his puerile and staged flip cam aim at it.
You would think that the Beltway crowd would circle their wagons around one of their own when O'Keefe started up with his antics, especially given his past history. But no, even the damn NPR talent themselves distance themselves. How frickin' sad that even Glenn Beck's Blaze blog takes a more skeptical eye than its own employees.
No one--not a single person--on Chris Matthews' program bothers to add this critical little bit of context to discussing NPR's bias. No one points out that absolutely NOTHING O'Keefe alleges should be taken credibly. Seriously, if he says the sky is blue, one ought to go outside to check. No one points out that PBS and NPR only count federal funding as less than 5% of the whole, but that smaller, rural stations will be greatly affected by the cuts, thereby making Schiller's statement factually true, if a bit tactless. No one points out that the "explosive" charges O'Keefe are so much less than explosive when looked at in full context.
Nope, all that is taken at face value (a measure of respect that should not ever be given to O'Keefe, Breitbart, et al--EVER), and instead the media pushes the ridiculous narrative of PBS being "elitist" and "liberal".
I'm sorry, but any channel that no longer employs Bill Moyers, but continues to give a platform to John McLaughlin & Co can hardly be called "liberal elitists". Media Matters has compiled a list of conservative commentators and pundits who claim that they consider NPR's editorial coverage "fair". Apparently, "fair" is the new "liberal elitist" for Tweety and panel, thus coloring their own editorial slants as something less than that.
Transcripts (courtesy of Heather) below the fold
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Talk about rotten timing. Republicans slashed funding for PBS and NPR two weeks ago. Defenders spent the last couple weeks trotting out Bert and Big Bird and calling for viewers and listeners to bombard Congress with protests. Well, and then this week’s disastrous undercover video of a National Public Radio fundraiser, not only did the fundraiser condemn tea partiers as racists; he said public funding isn’t even needed at NPR. Then another sting tape caught an NPR fundraiser claiming she could shield donations if they came from a group connected to terrorists.
David (laughing), now, make your case. You’re one of the stars on really a great show, the Newshour, so many people watch and rely on for their hard news. Make the case for public money going to this organization.
BROOKS: Well here’s the case. We have a common culture. If we’re going to assimilate people, if we’re going to be one nation, it helps to have a common culture and there are some things that do join us. And the reason and government has some role in help creating those things, or funding the things that join us. We have Smithsonian Museums that do some of that. I think public broadcasting with shows like The American Experience, they give us all something to clue into our history. They join us as a people, they assimilate immigrants and it’s worth the very small amount and you should see my paycheck, the very small amount that we pay to them.
MATTHEWS: Well that’s your end. You don’t get much. I certainly accept that. But here, $200,000 to a small state, a small station in Missouri, $8 million to WGBH, a very big state. You would think in Boston they would have some money. They wouldn’t need a subsidy. You cover it. Is there enough votes from the Senate to keep that money flowing to NPR and PBS.
O’DONNELL: Well because of the Big Bird affect and…
MATTHEWS: There’s ten Republican Senators apparently who like this.
O’DONNELL: Well Richard Shelby and Lindsey Graham are not among them. They really think that it’s time, especially government… uh… where government can act and the private sector can come in, that’s sort of the argument many Republicans make. You don’t need it because they can fundraise and they can do those things. But it is, the love’s part of the culture, so you’ve go that tension. It’s not a new argument. Conservatives have always said NPR is tilted. They don’t like that. They don’t want to have their people paying for it, meaning their voters and constituents. So there’s a lot of friction and it’s an easy argument to make, but Bert and Ernie are popular.
MATTHEWS: Hey David, objectively, do you think that NPR could be made more centrist, if they make an effort at it?
IGNATIUS: I think NPR’s a great news organization. I think its problem is not that it’s too liberal, but that it’s too elitist. In the culture wars, it’s high end, like the New York Times is high end.
MATTHEWS: But the good part is… the good part is it covers the world, much better than a lot (crosstalk)
KAY: It’s also seen as an elitist… the value of NPR is that it covers, it does have correspondents around the world and that’s very expensive and a lot of news organizations are cutting their funding. There are security arguments to be made that we need more foreign coverage in America.
MATTHEWS: Well yes and that’s the best thing about it, because we don’t get that elsewhere.
KAY: But it is still seen as an elitist…
KAY: …and a luxury. And I think, I don’t think actually most Republicans object so much to the sum, because as you point out they’re very small. It is the idea that you are funding public broadcasting that they believe has a bias.
KAY: There’s an argument for public broadcasting. You have to make very sure that your news reporting is seen as objective.
BROOKS: I think NPR’s done a good job over the last ten years of reducing that bias. I thought it was really biased ten years ago, but now I think it’s pretty straight. And the federal money for NPR doesn’t so much go for the big stations. It goes so it can go out to the rural parts of the country which wouldn’t have those stations otherwise.
MATTHEWS: It’s a hard thing to be honest about and I think we’ve had a good discussion on this for everybody.