The right’s long-justified annoyance at taxpayer-subsidized National Public Radio’s elitist and insulting liberal bias — accidentally expressed by one sacked executive named Schiller, and quite viciously by another sacked executive named Schiller — has finally gained traction among the greater culture. Heads are rolling at the DC offices of NPR. I never thought I’d see it, and I can’t say I’m not kinda enjoying it.
NPR’s chief fundraiser Ronald Schiller not only saw his planned smooth departure from his NPR gig accelerated, he lost his “fall back” at the Aspen Institute, too. His job-killing crime? Dragging his insults of the folks in “fly-over country” — racists, not-really-Christian, just generally being a jerk on tape — behind him like a palpably moist stink-cloud.
As a small-government libertarian, I’d oppose the public subsidy of something called “National Public Radio” — even if its programming reflected all my views and values. The idea that there is one “public” presentation of news (and viewpoint) that is rightly worthy of subsidy all taxpayers is absurd. And NPR (and PBS, for that matter) should have long ago attempted to extricate themselves from the logical conclusion that the words “National Public Radio” connote government approval — especially when they make such a show about how lack of government support would badly hurt the mission of the organization.
Rush Limbaugh became a success in the late 1980s because he filled a gaping void in the marketplace — a broadcaster with a national reach who offered a non-liberal interpretation on the news. The market demand for Rush’s product was so lush and rich that hundreds attempted to fill in behind him. And that same market, over a couple of decades, has determined that a few score national hosts could survive on the radio — and a smaller number could thrive in syndication.
Liberals tried to counter Limbaugh by creating “Air America,” a liberal alternative to conservative broadcasting. It failed for a simple reason: The “liberal alternative” on the radio already existed in the market. It is called NPR. (And on TV news/comment, it’s called CNN, MSNBC, HLN, ABC, CBS, and NBC.) That’s the market doing its magic — establishing a level.
So with that background, I was struck by this passage in an NRO blog post by Victor Davis Hanson. He has a great take on the current NPR imbroglio, and a sensible solution:
[NPR] has a substantial donor base, plenty of well-heeled supporters, a loyal audience, and a lavish federally funded infrastructure and administrative hierarchy. Would it not, then, be mutually acceptable to NPR’s supporters and critics that it simply be liberated, so it can become the overtly left-of-center station that it has always struggled so hard to hide?
Critics could tolerate the decades of prior support that birthed and nurtured NPR and then allowed it, as an adult, to go out on its own without worry over appearing “balanced.” There also seems to be significant, albeit underground support on the left for decoupling NPR from its right-wing watchdogs.
The issue need not be partisan. It could be seen as a natural maturing process: The federal training wheels come off, and the now-savvy NPR community is at last is freed to find its longed-for voice. This would also end the schizophrenic rhetoric of the last two years, that NPR really does, or really does not, need federal support — the former voiced in times of threatened cut-offs, the latter when in anguish members of Congress objected to its bias.
Exactly. Go private. Come out of the closet. Just be what you are, and meet what the market will demand.