Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NPR and Public Insanity

I have this issue.  I don't care for NPR (National Public Radio).  My issues with it are on a number of fronts, and here's a partial list:

1) It's boring.  I know people just love "car talk".  I have never heard it, but almost nothing interests me less than talking about cars.  There are things I'm sure I'd like, but there are whole sections of it that just can't possibly be worth anyone's time.

2) It's sooooooooo Liberal Correct.  It obviously makes people feel good to say they listen to NPR.  Maybe it does and maybe it is good to listen to NPR, but it definitely makes people feel good to say it.  That bugs me.

3) It's partially federally funded and it's obviously liberal in it's bent.  Not the worst offense, but hardly objective.

4) My libertarian feelings are bothered by funding a radio station.  I just think the government needs to fund things that aren't public luxuries.

Okay.  So that all having been said, I'm hearing lots of conversation about defunding NPR because of, and I (almost) quote a real, honest to goodness smart guy Howie Kurtz, "I don't know that we need to fund this during this time of real economic hardship."

Maybe I got the words wrong, but this was his message, and the message of at least two or three other pundits I've heard on the subject.


Here is what the federal budget spent in 2010:


Here is what NPR cost the federal government in 2010:


Not kidding, that's the actual number.

If you subtract the entire NPR budget from the US spending, US spending will be relieved of 0.0007% of its budget.

Whew!  Let's get right on that!

Seriously, is NPR even worth the conversation?  The federal deficit last year was 49% of revenue. 


Killing NPR would make that number:


I am not advocating that we waste $25 million, I do have libertarian leanings.  But I'm also a realist.  Do we really need to waste time talking about 0.0007% of the federal budget in this time of real economic hardship?


JimII said...

Because (1) is a matter of taste, there is not argument with it. This American Life; Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me; and RadioLab are some of my favorite sources of entertainment--not favorite radio programs, but entertainment generally. I find it weird that you find it boring. I mean, I Splendid Table is a cooking show that bores me, and there are shows I don't like on it.

I think (2) is very, very true. It is like driving a Prius, not have cable TV, or eating vegetarian. I believe that this is a legitimate reason not to listen, and I suspect it is the primary reason you don't.

I understand your point with (4). I would almost rather see the funding go away to stop hearing the bitching, though.

I think (3) is wrong. I don't read the NYT so I can't effectly comment on their news coverage. I do listen to NPR's news coverage and I believe strongly that it is not biased. Why? First, around election season I am constantly mad at them for how much they try to appease conservatives by bending right. At the same time, I have conservative friends who stop listening during election season because it is so left leaning. Second, I've heard many, many features on NPR designed to challenge liberal notions. E.g., they did a piece on how much better off working in Nike's "sweat shops" were than other in their village. Third, the way NPR reports a story just always ends up being the way the story is after the dust settles.

I think (2) & (4) are so strong that I understand why you don't listen to NPR. And maybe even (1) would apply to all of its programming. I think you are just very wrong about (3). Particularly with the news coverage, but even on the feature programs.

Matt Dick said...

All right, I totally concede #3. I can't not listen and at the same time disparage them against the opinion of someone who listens. So I wholly accept them as balanced.

I also think that as 0.0007% of the federal budget, I want the national conversation to not be about whether we save the money.

JimII said...

I also think that as 0.0007% of the federal budget, I want the national conversation to not be about whether we save the money.

Oh, you mean the actual point of your post? I couldn't agree more about that.

shadowfax said...

Jim is pretty right on with his comments, so I won't belabor the point beyond commenting that NPR is referred to as "Nice Polite Republicans" in left blogistan. They are all too happy to parrot the right wing talking points, adopt conservative framing conventions, and "report the controversy" of the day as cooked up by Drudge et al. I am 100% sure that every single NPR employee voted for Obama, so I can't argue the organization is liberal, but their reporting is neutral and neutered when it comes to partisan matters.

On the topic of car talk, it's the greatest show ever. Mostly because it's not about cars. It's about these two lunatics who somehow got a show on NPR and while the ostensible topic is cars, the actual show is the hosts cracking corny jokes and sending one another into paroxysms of laughter. If you don't like corny humor, it may not be for you. Bt make no mistake. The point of the show is not real, sober car advice. If that happens, they fully admit, its a happy coincidence.

Doug Haffner said...

I have held my tongue on this issue for far too long. It's time someone just stood up and took a stance that isn't popular, but is accurate.

Therefore, I say this: Radio is for pussies. Cowboy up and get an ipod and download whatever you want to listen to...webcasts are all over the place covering any topic you like, left or right slanted. When you listen to the radio you do nothing but support the current and next generation of Taylor Swift. Shame on you.