On March 4, 2011, Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) introduced a bill S.492 that would prohibit Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after fiscal year 2013. The bill is striking because it would essentially represent the end of government supported public broadcasting, and because Senator justifies the bill by stating that “Our nation is on the edge of bankruptcy…”
Arguments supporting the end of Federal funding include high executive salaries and the assertion that public broadcasting is self-sustaining. Bill O’Reilly stated that compensation for the heads of NPR and Sesame Street was in excess of $1 million in recent years. Senator DeMint also submitted that Sesame Street’s revenue stream alone can carry PBS, since it made more than $211 million from three years of product sales.
On the other hand, convincing arguments exist for the continued federal funding of public broadcasting. One editorial argues that public broadcasting serves an important function because it provides educational and news programming – a “common cultural touchstone” for the people of America. At least one online petition exists, and takes the argument further by asserting that “in many rural and less affluent communities, broadcasters rely on federal funding to provide the only available high-quality news and public affairs programming.”
Additional controversy surrounding NPR executives have hit the headlines in recent days. Among the controversy are hidden-camera videos of NPR fund-raiser Ron Schiller saying that NPR would be better off without federal funding in the long-term. In an Washington Post article, analysis of the unedited video indicates that Schiller also said that “loss of federal funding would be disastrous in the short term.” While Ron Schiller was already planning to leave NPR, this video may have led to his early resignation.