Politics & Government

NPR executive's remarks stir debate about funding

Ron Schiller may have done more harm to NPR than the tea party ever could.

Schiller, the NPR executive caught speaking all too freely in a hidden-camera sting, not only lost his current job but the one at the Aspen Institute he’d lined up for later this year. That was his punishment for saying that members of the tea party were “white, Middle America, gun-toting” and “pretty scary.”

But Schiller also let slip that, in his view, NPR would be better off without federal funds.

Was he right?

As the reverberations from the undercover operation continued Wednesday with the resignation of NPR’s chief executive, Vivian Schiller, those comments by Ron Schiller (no relation) restarted the debate over whether the government should be in the media business.

“This disturbing video makes clear that taxpayer dollars should no longer be appropriated to NPR,” Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, declared in an e-mail to the online site Daily Caller.

If Cantor gets his way, and the odds are long, taxpayer dollars would be cut off from not only NPR but all other public media, including radio and TV stations. The cuts are part of the continuing budget resolution that Cantor and other Republican leaders have authored.

In response, stations such as Kansas City’s KCUR-FM have for weeks been barraging listeners with on-air announcements about the possible imminent demise of public broadcasting. The announcements urge people to visit a website that highlights the benefits of nonprofit journalism, arts programming and other content that are the specialty of public media.

“Why should we have libraries when we have bookstores? That’s a public subsidy,” said Patricia Deal Cahill, KCUR station manager. “The minor percentage of public subsidy that we receive lets viewers and listeners know that this is important.”

This battle over a relatively small portion of the federal budget — about $422 million in fiscal year 2010 — has gone on for decades. But it took on new intensity this week after Project Veritas, a group of self-described muckrakers, released an embarrassing recording of Ron Schiller, who at the time was head of the NPR Foundation. He thought he was lunching with representatives of a Muslim charity wishing to make a $5 million gift to NPR.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.

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