Embedded in Ms. Schiller’s apology is an acknowledgment that NPR is reeling from unexpected and vehement public anger. “I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public.” Translation: For the first time in living memory, NPR is getting blowback. Ombudsman Alicia Shepherd confirmed this, noting that the Williams firing unfortunately coincided with “pledge week” and that volunteers manning the phones to take donations had been deluged with complaints instead. It seems that NPR has been hit with its own little Tea Party.
Here’s the way to think about public radio and public television: They are testimony to the power of special interests. The taxpayers are subsidizing programming for a minority of left-leaning Americans. A June Pew Center study found that 61 percent of NPR’s audience calls itself “progressive” compared with 41 percent of the overall radio audience (and, according to a Gallup survey, only 12 percent of Americans generally). Fourteen percent of NPR listeners call themselves Republicans, whereas 40 percent self-identify as Democrats, and 41 percent as independents. Why in the world is the government using your taxes to subsidize the radio preferences of your liberal neighbors?
In the 1990s, Republicans made pathetic stabs at defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, and NPR. They retreated — which told you pretty much all you needed to know about the last Republican majority. A new Republican majority is rumored to be in the making. Its handling of this special-interest subsidy will be equally revealing.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 Creators Syndicate.