Republican Attack on NPR is Assault on First Amendment Rights

National Public Radio is a resource that belongs to the American people. It is not government controlled, has no editorial bias in terms of ideology or party, and is the nation’s most extensive network of committed professional journalists delivering reliable information to American citizens, via the radio. Federal funding is a commitment to enabling the American people to benefit from the founding principle that a free and independent press makes us freer and more resilient to the challenges a democracy faces.

Far from wasteful spending, federal NPR funding is necessary to guarantee that the American people have an affordable way to counter for-profit corporate media, much of which filters information through editorial offices with political or corporate biases. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States specifies that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. The legislation proposed by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives abridges the freedom of the American people to have their voice heard, and directly limits the freedom of journalists to deliver reliable information to the American people.

NPR is offensive to extremist conservatives and radical partisans with a corporate or right-wing ideological bias, because it tells the truth. When politicians lie, they are found out. When corporations cheat the government or the people, they are investigated. When mainstream for-profit media get even simple stories factually wrong, NPR gives the people depth of coverage and fact-based reporting.

In a political climate where the Republican party, in apparent absence of any constructive idea for how to govern —no useful ideas for climate destabilization, no useful ideas for energy innovation, no useful ideas for job creation, no useful ideas for ending the foreclosure binge, no useful ideas for safeguarding or expanding the middle class—, seeks to establish and to capitalize from flagrantly biased media —like Fox News—, which help the party organize and advertise and which report flat-out falsehoods to further the party interest… an attack on NPR is clearly an attack on the people’s right to know the truth.

Because ordinary people can access public radio, build community centered programming, and use federal funds to make sure the information in their community is not biased, NPR looks to wealthy corporate interests —and to those unfortunate partisans who rely on wealthy corporate interests to help them persuade the people their service might be worth something— like a threat to their campaign of biased, interested information.

The people of the United States actually do need NPR, because there is no other national network of truly independent journalists committed to doing straightforward professional reporting of fact and context. NPR receives donations from listeners, but, like PBS, requires federal funding to allow radio stations in less affluent, less media-rich corners of the country to fund the production of professional quality content and/or licensing of NPR national content.

A radio network does not maintain itself, and a public radio network not funded by corporate commercial advertising does not aim to turn a profit, clearly. The mission of NPR is to make sure the fabric of American news media includes at least one standard of top-quality professional news reporting and radio broadcasting. We have a right to keep that best manifestation of a free and independent press, and no politician serious about the quality of our media or our democracy, could argue otherwise.

As a measure of how serious the individuals pushing this legislation are about —well, about pretty much anything—, when the United States is involved in two wars in Asia, with pressure to intervene militarily in Libya, with communities across the country experiencing a rash of foreclosures and the gutting of funds for their educational systems, food and fuel prices soaring, unstable countries being further destabilized, and an allied monarchy in Bahrain using extreme violence against pro-democracy demontrators… with the 3rd largest economy on Earth having suffered simultaneously the 5th worst earthquake in history, a catastrophic tsunami that has taken thousands of lives and destroyed and entire region and what is already the 2nd worst nuclear disaster in world history, they called an “emergency meeting” to force through legislation barring federal funding to NPR.

The callous and shamefully partisan nature of this proposal is glaringly obvious and should be deeply offensive to any American who cares about democracy as such. If we want to have a real and functioning democracy, we need to have media that tell us the truth, without seeking profit or party gain. NPR is that medium, and what NPR does, its journalists do to make sure we have the truth at our disposal and so can be fully free citizens of a truly open society.



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2 Comments on “Republican Attack on NPR is Assault on First Amendment Rights
  1. Funding NPR actually has nothing to do with First Amendment rights. That protects a person’s right to express an opinion. There is nothing in that amendment that says any person or group has any rights to funding from the government to help them speak out.

    Your comments are truly absurd.

  2. Dear Dragos111,

    Of course the First Amendment does not guarantee funding for any program; it is not about funding. But the “free speech” clause is not the part relevant to NPR. The part that is relevant is the “freedom of the press” clause. NPR is an editorially independent source of quality journalism and reliable information about our society and our world. It belongs to the American people and is not a for-profit interest with a commercial or partisan bias. And, it survives in part because there is federal funding. The effort to de-fund NPR is an effort to pass a law with the specific intent of abridging the freedom of the press to operate, report and to criticize powerful interests. It is what it is, but it is not in any way in line with the spirit or the language of the First Amendment.

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