Art of Proprietation

Friday, March 04, 2011

170 Million Americans

Public Radio has an ongoing campaign called something like \170 Million Americans\ to protest the US House cutting funding for public radio.

I have been a dues paying member of public radio my entire adult life. I am a frequent public radio listener. I listen to public radio when I am in the car, in my home office when I am working, in the milking shed, under my ear muffs on the tractor. I don't listen to any other radio stations. I find it to be an excellent source of varied news programming.

I think that my public radio station and NPR should give up any government funding.

National public radio gets something like 2% of it's funding from the Fed. My public radio station gets something like 10% from the fed and nothing from the state. But it is time to give up that funding.

My public radio station has the highest penetration of any public radio station. More people in my state listen to PR than any other state (by %). If public radio can stand on it's own two feet in any state, it should be here. And they can. 10% is not make or break for them. It would take belt tightening, but they could do it. And I strongly believe if they publicized that they were giving up federal funding, the membership would stand behind them and make up the difference, probably more.

NPR is in a similar position. When NPR was created, it struggled for funding and government support was crucial in providing radio programming in under served areas. But they are a mature organization now. It is time for NPR to stand on it's own two feet. And it is important for NPR's integrity to do so. Money from the fed comes with strings attached. To be a truly an independant organization, NPR should no longer accept federal money.

Part of my reasoning is the need for journalistic independence. But it is also based on principle. Public radio prides itself on being member supported and not compelling listeners to pay for broadcasts. By accepting money from the government, they are accepting money that has been collected by compulsion through taxes. Unfortunately, there are tax payers who don't wish to make a contribution to public radio. Accepting contributions that are not willingly given is not the right thing to do.

If 170 million Americans believe that public radio deserves support, then let them support it. It wouldn't take much of a contribution from each of those Americans to fully fund public radio. It's time for NPR and my public radio station to stop treating federal funding like an entitlement and look at past funding as seed money.

This year, when I made my contribution to public radio, I wrote a short note expressing my belief that they should give up governement funding. And I doubled my annual contribution. I am encouraging other public radio listeners to increase their contribution and tell public radio to keep their integrity and give up federal funding.

I am being careful not to say that all public radio stations need to give up government funding. There may be under served areas of the country that still need government support to remain viable. Areas that just don't have the population density to fully support their own public radio station alone. But I am encouraging the listeners across the country to increase their contribution and consider if they really need federal funding. I have considered it here, and believe federal funding for my station is not worth the strings that come with it.

Let's find 170 million Americans who are willing to support public radio. Lets show the politians that we can support public radio without them.