With President-elect Trump promising to pay for his infrastructure and defense spending by defunding non-essential federal spending, one of the first programs on the block could be the almost $500 million spent on public broadcasting.
Despite repeated efforts to kill federal funding of public broadcasting since Republicans won the House in 2010 and Presidential-nominee Mitt Romney made it a campaign promise in 2012, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education are spending $470.7 million in U.S. taxpayer cash to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) this year, which provides 15 percent of PBS television and 10 percent of NPR radio broadcasting funding.
Although their charter requires strict non-partisan programing, the public broadcasters are accused of leaning left. An NPR article described the 2016 election results as “nostalgia for a whiter America.”
After Joel Pollak, who serves as Breitbart’s Senior Editor-at-Large and In-house Counsel, defended its Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon from false and defamatory claims of antisemitism and “white nationalism” in a Nov. 16 interview, NPR’s ombudsman/public editor Elizabeth Jensen recommended that the taxpayer-funded radio news service bar future live interviews of conservatives, who may be “normalizing hate speech.” Instead, guests with presumably controversial views should be pre-taped, she said, so that their opinions might be “contextualized.” (NPR clarified on Monday evening that it will continue to air live interviews with conservatives.)
The CPB was supposedly founded as a non-partisan not-for-profit corporation in 1967 as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society.” The President trumpeted that by signing the bill, “It announces to the world that our nation wants more than just material wealth; our nation wants more than a ‘chicken in every pot.’ We in America have an appetite for excellence, too.”
Originally funded with a $5 million grant, the CPB quickly became controversial for its liberal programing, such as Washington Week in Review, Bill Moyers, The Great American Dream Machine, and the documentary Banks and the Poor, which alleged that many major banks discriminated against poor customers.
The Carter administration was unsuccessful in 1978 when it tried to convince a Democratic Congress to appropriate $200 million to CPB for each of the next five years. But since then, U.S. taxpayers have spent generously on public broadcasting — over $10 billion in the past five decades. Despite recessions, CPB’s budget has only been trimmed four times during the period.
In keeping with President Johnson’s statement that “our nation wants more than a chicken in every pot,” public broadcasting not-for-profits are known for paying egregiously high executive compensation. According to the latest data available for the 2013 fiscal year, PBS’s Paula Kerger pocketed $779,954 in salary, NPR’s Gary Knell banked $756,575, and CPB’s Patricia de Stacy Harrison received $434,364.
It is extremely difficult to break down exactly what portion of salaries is paid by taxpayers through CPB, PBS and NPR program grants.
The launch of the Great Society coincided with the beginning of the end of America’s blue-collar prosperity. Over the next 40 years, working class Americans have seen their wages shrink as factories and mines and shops in their communities were shuttered.
It was working class Americans that just gave President-elect Donald Trump his improbable victory. They want the type of tax cuts and infrastructure spending that will put back the “chicken in every pot.“ Many see little or no benefit in continued federal spending on elitist public broadcasting.