What If?

Mar 1, 2017

A while back, I told you that the Trump White House was on track to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the organization that provides some federal funds for public broadcasters like WAMC) and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. We know that the Breitbart organization, formerly run by senior White House Advisor Steve Bannon, had called for the privatization of the CPB. When I mentioned that on WAMC, the money came rolling in and we made history. I suggested that each time we have a fund drive we tack on an extra $133,000 that would add up to the $400,000 CPB contributes to our $7,000,000 budget. You were smart enough to make sure we got it.

Despite the fact that this defunding really appears to be in the cards, there were a few unkind souls who denied that it would happen. I even heard from some folks in the public radio community who agreed that it couldn’t happen. In fact, I was a little disturbed because I felt that NPR itself had its head in the sand. The message they seemed to be sending was, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Of course, we now know that the CPB is on the White House and Congressional chopping block. There’s no doubt that President Trump views the intellectual-arts community in the United States with disdain. During the campaign, he made no secret of his special love for the country’s “under-educated.” I suspect he knows full well that the folks who listen to public radio, go to museums and study the humanities are not organically his people. It isn’t as if we are talking about huge chunks of the federal budget here. We are not; nothing like the price tag for a few nuclear submarines or some advanced aircraft. Nope, this is a “get even” kind of guy and he instinctively knows the kind of people who voted for him and who didn’t.

Now we will have to see what the Congress does. This is not the first time that the Congress went after public broadcasting. John McCain was recently quoted on the subject of Trump’s war against the press. He suggested, and it made a lot of headlines, that this anti-media stuff was how dictators got started. He is absolutely right. It is doubtful that the members of Congress who we regularly interview on WAMC are going to risk alienating their public radio and TV audiences. They know that they are given an even break by truly balanced news organizations. Former Republican Congressman Chris Gibson voted against the last attempt to defund public broadcasting. I’d like to think that his brand of independence will not be unique when it comes to the 435 members of the House of Representatives or the Senate. I would also like to think that NPR will not start to worry more about their money than about their ability to do their jobs fairly. I’ve heard from a number of people who think that NPR is tilting right. 

It is not surprising that the Trump people are going after public radio. The name of the game is to stand up and look them in the eye. We all remember that when George Pataki was governor, he tried to strip funds just from WAMC. We stood up to him. The key word is “courage.” The reason why our Roundtable Panel is so popular is that all kinds of opinions, including those you submit to the show, are welcome. I can tell you, as I have all along, that the move to defund public radio, the arts and the humanities is beyond anything I thought would happen in my lifetime.

We have built a station that never kowtows to power and we’ll always be there to look these power mongers in the eye as long, as we have you backing us up.