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NPR Should Not Be Subsidized by Taxpayers

Michael Chapman


Uri Berliner, a 25‐​year‐​long journalist at National Public Radio (NPR), recently resigned from his job after being suspended because he wrote about the entrenched left‐​wing/​woke mindset at NPR, calling it a “progressive silo.” Berliner’s tell‐​all confirms what media critics have long known, and reveals why taxpayer funding of the news media is not a good idea. 

It would not matter whether NPR was liberally biased or conservatively biased. The bottom line is that if politicians (bureaucrats) control the funding of the news, then the news likely will be politicized.

NPR, a non‐​profit media organization, was founded in 1970 by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which had been established by Congress in 1967 under the Public Broadcasting Act. NPR receives funding from private donors, corporate sponsors, foundations, and federal, state, and local government. The federal funding comes from the CPB, which provides grants to local radio stations that, in turn, pay to use content created by NPR, such as the news programs All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

According to NPR, “federal funding is essential to public radio’s service to the American public, and the programming fees from the local stations “comprise a significant portion of NPR’s largest source of revenue.” (NPR’s emphasis.) “The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations’ ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution,” the news outlets’s website insists.

The loss of federal revenue would result in “less journalism,” added NPR. Yet Berliner’s revelations suggest our tax dollars are sometimes paying for propaganda and not straightforward journalism.

At NPR, “the rise of advocacy took off with Donald Trump,” said Berliner. “[W]hat began as tough, straightforward coverage of a belligerent, truth‐​impaired president veered toward efforts to damage or topple Trump’s presidency.”

The outlet also “turned a blind eye” to the Hunter Biden laptop story. A colleague “said it was good we weren’t following the laptop story because it could help Trump,” said Berliner. He added that politics also “intruded into NPR’s Covid coverage, most notably in reporting on the origin of the pandemic. One of the most dismal aspects of Covid journalism is how quickly it defaulted to ideological story lines.”

“In DC, where NPR is headquartered and many of us live, I found 87 registered Democrats working in editorial positions and zero Republicans. None,” Berliner writes. “[P]olitics were blotting out the curiosity and independence that ought to have been driving our work.”

In addition to the political climate, senior management pushed racial and gender identity policies. For instance, NPR journalists were required to ask every person they interviewed “their race, gender, and ethnicity (among other questions), and had to enter it in a centralized tracking system,” said Berliner. “We were given unconscious bias training sessions. A growing DEI staff offered regular meetings imploring us to ‘start talking about race.’”

Despite those policies, “NPR’s news audience in recent years has become less diverse, not more so,” said Berliner. “[N]ow, the audience is cramped into a smaller, progressive silo. … Our news audience doesn’t come close to reflecting America. It’s overwhelmingly white and progressive, and clustered around coastal cities and college towns.”

If NPR were private, receiving no taxpayer funds, like The Nation or NBC News, its coverage and “less diverse” audience would likely raise little concern. NPR could be as woke as it wants or as conservative as it wants. The bottom line is that there is no reason why taxpayers should be forced to fund news organizations.

Cato 2022 Handbook for Policymakers cover image

In the Cato Handbook for Policymakers (9th Edition), scholars at the Cato Institute write, “In a society that constitutionally limits the powers of government and maximizes individual liberty, there is no justification for the forcible transfer of money from taxpayers to artists, scholars, and broadcasters. … Moreover, the power to subsidize art, scholarship, and broadcasting cannot be found within the powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government under the Constitution.”

The same chapter says “Congress should eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts; eliminate the National Endowment for the Humanities; and defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” (CPB’s FY2024 operation budget is $535 million.)

For radio and TV, “the selection process is inherently political,” reads the Cato Handbook. “Why are taxpayers in a free society compelled to support news coverage, particularly when it is inclined in a statist direction?”

As Uri Berliner wrote, “[W]hat’s notable is the extent to which people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview. And this, I believe, is the most damaging development at NPR: the absence of viewpoint diversity.”

If individuals want to support a “progressive” NPR through charitable contributions, that’s fine. But don’t force taxpayers to help foot the bill.

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