The Corner

Free NPR to Be NPR

If one collates all the recent Schiller #1 and Schiller #2 pronouncements, both official and off the record — the strange stereotyping of the Tea Party, the chest-thumping that NPR would not tolerate Juan Williams’s supposed stereotyping, and various asides that NPR would be better off without federal funding — it almost seems like NPR wants to be freed to be NPR. 

It has a substantial donor base, plenty of well-heeled supporters, a loyal audience, and a lavish federally funded infrastructure and administrative hierarchy. Would it not, then, be mutually acceptable to NPR’s supporters and critics that it simply be liberated, so it can become the overtly left-of-center station that it has always struggled so hard to hide? 

Critics could tolerate the decades of prior support that birthed and nurtured NPR and then allowed it, as an adult, to go out on its own without worry over appearing “balanced.” There also seems to be significant, albeit underground support on the left for decoupling NPR from its right-wing watchdogs. 

The issue need not be partisan. It could be seen as a natural maturing process: The federal training wheels come off, and the now-savvy NPR community is at last is freed to find its longed-for voice. This would also end the schizophrenic rhetoric of the last two years, that NPR really does, or really does not, need federal support — the former voiced in times of threatened cut-offs, the latter when in anguish members of Congress objected to its bias.

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