Shortly after NPR fired Juan Williams, I suggested that his sacking was a smart move, given the leftism of NPR’s audience. NPR’s “base,” it seemed to me, was outraged not only by Williams’ comments, but also by the fact that he appears on Fox News at all.
The Washington Post reports, however, that the affair may cause long-term damage to public broadcasting’s finances. In particular, it’s possible that the next Congress will curtail or eliminate federal subsidies.
NPR receives only about two percent of its $154 million annual budget from federal sources. However, its 800-plus member stations are more reliant on federal funding, and some of them rely heavily on it.
In the past, there has been no shortage of talk about ending federal subsidies for public broadcasting. Nothing much has come of it – not even after the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995. Perhaps this time will be different, given the ability of NPR’s opponents to attach Juan Williams’ face to the cause and given the state of the budget and the economy. I hope so.
If the government does cut or eliminate funding, I would expect the left to make up much of the shortfall. To the extent that NPR can portray itself as the victim of a right-wing Congress, its base will likely rally to its support. In fact, George Soros recently contributed nearly $2 million to NPR. That’s about two-thirds of what the government gives it. And, potentially, there’s more where that came from.
Increased contributions from the likes of Soros and smaller individual left-wing donors will tend to drive NPR further to the left. This is the vicious cycle I posited in my earlier post. NPR’s resulting loss of credibility (credibility I don’t believes it deserves currently) may turn out to be the most significant impact of the Williams affair.
The second most significant impact will probably be the boost to Fox. The network will almost certainly expand Williams’ role. This will help Fox because Williams has much to offer substantively, because he will give Fox more credibility as “fair and balanced,” and (let’s face it) because he is an African-American and, indeed, a distinguished writer about the civil rights movement.
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