DeMint, Coburn Introduce Bill to Cut Public Support to Public Radio, TV

Senators Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have introduced a bill to cut public support to public radio and TV. House Republicans already tried to defund it through the end of this year via an amendment to their proposed continuing resolution to keep the government running through the end of September. It was not part of the short-term spending bill (two-week reprieve) passed this week by both House and Senate.

DeMint pointed out that CP has received almost $4 billion in taxpayer funding over the past decade. The president did not cut CPB funding in his proposed budget (he actually increased funding), although the chairs of a bipartisan advisory committee he formed to make budget-cutting suggestions included that as a possible option.

DeMint does not see the cut as optional, however. "Our nation is on the edge of bankruptcy and Congress must make some tough choices to rein in spending, but ending taxpayer subsidies of public broadcasting should be an easy decision,” he said Friday (March 4) in announcing the new bill.

He also pointed to some of the salaries of top noncommercial executives, including PBS President Paula Kerger's $632,233 2009 compensation according to financial reporting data,  and NPR's Kevin Klose's more than $1.2 million in compensation.

He also pointed to some of the salaries of top noncom execs, including PBS President Paula Kerger's $632,233 2009 compensation
according to financial reporting data, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell's $956,513,
and NPR Kevin Klose's more than $1.2 million in compensation.

Sesame workshop had no comment, beyond referring B&C to a Feb. 15
statement that said, among many other things: "As an independent
501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Sesame Workshop is not directly
affiliated with public television or any government agency. We produce
children’s educational programming across media platforms for public
broadcasting as well as other media outlets."

NPR had no comment, but a source speaking on background pointed out that Klose's base salary for 2009 was $367,750.

The additional $800,546 was a one-time payment of compensation he had deferred over his 11 years at NPR. NPR used to allow its president and CEO to earn income in one tax year, but defer receiving it, and paying tax on it, to a later year. In this case, all 11 years were deferred until 2009, when he left and collected the lump sum.

The source said NPR no longer has that deferred compensation plan.

Republicans periodically target CPB for what they see as its left-leaning programming bias. DeMint invoked NPR's $1.8 million grant from the liberal financier George Soros' Open Society Foundation.

In an op-ed Friday in the Wall Street Journal, DeMint said that "when the presidents of government-funded broadcasting are making more than the president of the United States, it's time to get the government out of public broadasting."

“This attack is déjà vu all over again," said Craig Aaron, managing director of the Free Press Action Fund. "This bill isn’t about a budget deficit; it’s yet another political witch hunt aimed at silencing serious journalism and quality programming."

“What Senators DeMint and Coburn forget is that the public — including millions of their own constituents and more than half of the GOP faithful, according to surveys — really like public broadcasting."

A study released by PBS this week showed that 56% of Republicans polled oposed zeroing out the funding.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.