HILL: Defund NPR, PBS and ‘Sesame Street’

It is basic, coarse human nature to misuse or abuse money that is not your own

Big Bird and Elmo attend Macy's 150th anniversary celebration at New York’s Gotham Hall in 2008. (Evan Agostini / AP Photo)

Uri Berliner, a senior business editor who has worked at National Public Radio (NPR) since 1999 publicly came out last week and said what everyone knew to be true about NPR for the past four decades: “People at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview.”

Eighty-seven employees in the Washington, D.C., headquarters for NPR were registered Democrats. Zero were registered Republicans.

One would have thought Berliner screamed “Eureka!” as if he was Archimedes when he supposedly bounded out of his bathtub after making some marvelous scientific discovery.

The only real question is “What took him so long?”

When they say PBS (Public Broadcasting System) is “supported by members like you” during their telethons, they aren’t kidding ― they get almost all of their annual funding from Congress. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the umbrella parent of NPR and PBS, got $525 million of your tax money in FY2024. NPR likes to boast they receive “minimal” direct federal support from Congress. The truth is they derive more than 50% of their annual budget from programming fees from member stations around the country which are also supported by federal grants from CPB.

Back in the dark ages in 1970 when PBS was born, there were only three major media outlets on television: ABC, NBC and CBS. Advocates for PBS at least had a reasoned argument to support an educational channel to produce informational programming instead of another outlet for a knockoff of “Gunsmoke” or “I Love Lucy.”

When PBS produced “Sesame Street,” they hit a home run that remained in the hearts and minds of millions of children and their parents for generations and made it virtually impossible to get rid of it. “How can Congressman Neanderthal vote to kill Bert and Ernie and Kermit the Frog?” was the easiest political ad to write in history.

As early as 1980, left-wing liberal bias started to leak out of PBS and NPR broadcasts after the election of Ronald Reagan. Conservatives used to listen to NPR’s “All Things Considered” flagship program to learn something until it succumbed to liberal bias in most stories they covered.

NPR and PBS should have been defunded back then. There is no room for any political philosophy or bias when it comes to using federal taxpayer dollars to fund so-called “unbiased news” (sic) reporting. Everyone has a bias when it comes to politics and news reporting. When it becomes propaganda, it ceases being objective, benign and useful news.

It is basic, coarse human nature to misuse or abuse money that is not your own.

NPR recently named a new CEO, Katherine Maher, to head their operations. She went ballistic when Berliner made his accusations. Her past tweets have come back to undermine her assertions of fairness to Republicans and conservatives. After the George Floyd riots, she wrote: “It’s hard to be mad about protests not prioritizing the private property of a system of oppression founded on treating people’s ancestors as private property.” The next day, she tweeted: “White silence is complicity.”

Conservatives don’t have any problem with Maher or NPR being political and exercising their right to free speech in a free press. Just don’t do it on federal taxpayer money. Go find wealthy liberal Democrat investors who can buy the assets of CPB in total and run PBS and NPR in as virulent of a partisan manner as they want ― on their own dollar, not ours.

As far back as the administration of President James Garfield in 1881, elected officials understood the dangers of elected officials on the other side of the political spectrum using the federal budget trough for patronage purposes to force their agenda on the American people using the coercive power of government.

Liberals think federal funding for NPR and PBS is sacrosanct and should never be touched by conservatives. When Berliner confirmed that 87 reporters at NPR were all registered Democrats and none were Republicans, he pretty much put the nail in the coffin to the argument that PBS could be trusted to administer federal taxpayer dollars in a fair, even-handed manner — because they can’t help themselves.

The national debt is now over $34.6 trillion. Eliminating federal funding for CPB, PBS and NPR will not balance the budget overnight. But it is a start ― and it will remove the specter of liberals taking money from conservative taxpayers and bashing them over the head with it every single day.