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U.S. House Votes to Cut Off Funding for National Public Radio

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller Resigned March 9
Vivian Schiller, former president and chief executive officer of National Public Radio Inc. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

The U.S. House voted to end federal funding of National Public Radio, whose chief executive resigned last week after a video purported to show another network official criticizing Republicans and Tea Party activists.

The legislation, approved 228-192 yesterday over objections from the Obama administration, also would bar more than 700 local public radio stations from using federal funds to buy programming, either from NPR or any other outlet.

The measure is unlikely to get a vote in the Democratic-dominated Senate.

Democrats opposing the bill accused Republicans of political interference with NPR because of objections to its news coverage.

“This legislation does not serve any fiscal purpose but it does serve an ugly ideological one,” said Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. “This legislation is not about reforming NPR, it is about punishing NPR.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said the main reason for the bill is “making sure that we are spending taxpayer dollars the way that the people that earn them would spend them.”

Still, Cantor and other lawmakers voiced objections to NPR’s coverage.

“We’ve seen NPR and its programming often veer far from what Americans would like to see as far as the expenditure of their taxpayer dollars,” Cantor said in a floor speech.

‘Unacceptable Bias’

Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, said in a statement it was “past time” for government funding of NPR to end because in recent months the network “has exhibited a troubling level of inexplicable and unacceptable bias.”

NPR, in an e-mailed statement, called the measure “a direct effort to weaken public radio that would ultimately choke local stations’ ability to serve their audiences.”

Representative John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat, said Republicans object to NPR’s news coverage because “it is not on the same ideological frequency” as “the extreme right.”

Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive, resigned March 9 after the release of the videotaped comments by an NPR fundraiser who also questioned whether the network needed to continue to receive federal funds.

Those comments by fundraiser Ron Schiller, no relation to the former chief executive, were cited by Republican lawmakers as a reason for ending federal sponsorship of NPR, which also receives money from private donors and sponsors.

Firing of Williams

Calls by Republicans to cut off government funds for NPR began last October after the network fired reporter Juan Williams. He was fired after saying on Fox News, which employed him as a part-time commentator, that he got nervous on airplanes whenever he saw passengers dressed in traditional Muslim garb. Williams later was hired to a full-time job at Fox News.

NPR’s firing of Williams led to the resignation in January of the radio network’s top news executive, Ellen Weiss.

NPR received $1.9 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the 2010 fiscal year, in addition to $731,718 from federal grants it got through competition, said Danielle Deabler, a spokeswoman for the network. She didn’t have an estimate of federal money it receives indirectly through program purchases and dues from member stations.

Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for Colorado Republican Douglas Lamborn, said these stations used federal money to purchase $64 million in programming and other membership services from NPR and pay dues to the network in 2010.

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