Should NPR rely on listeners rather than taxpayers like you?

It’s been a rough week for National Public Radio (NPR) after esteemed editor Uli Berliner wrote: pathetic account Political bias in the media.

Although it’s NPR answered The denial of the allegations reignited debate over the dangers of selective government funding of news organizations. It is not simply an issue of bias, but a more fundamental discussion of why the public should support this particular media company to the exclusion of other media.

The Biden administration and Congress continue to struggle with large budget deficits and rising national debt. $34 trillion in debt It accounts for approximately 99% of gross domestic product.

Public subsidy to NPR has been protected as sacrosanct for decades, despite the need for deep cuts to core public programs.

NPR claims that only about 1% of the budget comes from the government. However, this is misleading because there is a federal law that distributes funds through local stations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been set aside for CPB in fiscal year 2026, a significant increase from 2025.

During, NPR’s audience is declining.. In fact, the trend has become most pronounced since 2017. Berliner said the company began openly pursuing a political narrative and agenda to counter Donald Trump. The company has reported a decline in advertising revenue, and like many media outlets, Significant headcount reduction To address budget shortfalls.

Just to be clear, despite the increasing political bias displayed on NPR’s newscasts, I still consider them to be unparalleled in quality and some of their programming. But the budget fight resurfaces long-standing constitutional concerns about federal media subsidies. While not unconstitutional per se, it remains an anomaly in a system that seeks to separate government and the press.

The United States has never had a true “wall of separation” for the media, as Thomas Jefferson once referred to between church and state. Indeed, in 1791, Madison declared that Congress had a duty to improve the “circulation of newspapers throughout the nation” and enacted the Post Office Act of 1791, which provided discount prices for newspapers to be delivered to subscribers. Sponsored. For many years, newspapers accounted for over 95% of the weight of mail transported by the post office. This was a direct subsidy to the media, which resulted in an explosion in the number of newspapers in the country.

Still, the subsidies benefited all newspapers, regardless of content or ownership. For decades, Congress has paid billions of dollars to CPB and Voice of America. While it is debated whether Voice of America is an outdated Cold War-era federal program, at least VOA is an actual federal program that provides programming explicitly for the government.

CPB and NPR are different. In a competitive media market, governments have chosen to subsidize select media outlets. Moreover, this is not the news outlet that many people would choose. Although actively leaning towards the left and openly supporting (including) discourses, some false stories) Democratic sources say NPR and its allies still expect the public to subsidize its work. That includes about half the country, and that perspective is now effectively banished from the airwaves.

NPR is exactly the type of news organization that the Framers sought to protect through the First Amendment. It is also the kind of thing that should not be funded as part of de facto state media.

Local PBS stations are supported, butby listeners like you” continues NPR itself.federal funding is essential” to that piece. If NPR truly relies on federal funds for just 1% of its budget, why not cut it off entirely from public donations? That would put NPR on equal footing with all other radio stations and media outlets. will have to compete. And given their loyal base and good program, they’ll probably do well in such competition.

But NPR’s funding has always imposed other costs in terms of its constitutional values ​​as a media organization funded in part by taxpayers. This includes many people who have extremely biased views of the station. Such bias does not allow NPR to stand out among other news organizations. However, NPR is different. NPR takes pride in its annual pledge work, but conservative taxpayers are not given a choice whether to fund it or not. Congress effectively forces them to take the pledge every year, but they don’t even get a tote bag in return.

This debate over state funding for NPR has become even more concerning due to recent changes in the media. In recent years, there has been a shift towards defending journalism, with key figures denouncing the very concept of “objectivity” in the media.

Kathleen Carroll, former editor-in-chief of the Associated Press, declared: …The criteria seems to be white, educated, and fairly wealthy. ”

Ironically, that happens to be the main NPR audience demographics. According to research, this also includes: largely liberal audience And…wait for it…it’s not more racially diverse than Fox News.

NPR is The front lines of the advocacy journalism debate. In fact, at times it seemed like it was moving toward omitting the journalistic part entirely. NPR announced that its reporters will be able to participate in advocacy for “human freedom and dignity” on social media and in real life. Reporters simply need recognition for what they see as a cause that promotes freedom and dignity. That probably doesn’t include pro-life or gun rights rallies.

NPR is not alone in moving toward an advocacy model, but state funding for NPR is certainly becoming increasingly problematic. Despite criticism of its obvious bias, NPR has further stepped up its exclusion of conservative voices.Berliner I got it. At NPR’s Washington headquarters, 87 editors are registered Democrats and zero are Republicans.

That includes the company’s chief executive officer, Katherine Maher. After years of criticism of his political bias, the search for a new CEO was seen as an opportunity to choose someone without such partisan baggage. Instead, it chose Maher, who has been criticized for controversial posts by everyone from looters to President Trump. The now-deleted posts included a 2018 declaration that “Donald Trump is a racist” and various political comments.

Maher lashed out at Berliner. to call He said his criticism and calls for greater diversity in newsrooms were “deeply disrespectful, hurtful and humiliating.”

The unilateral division among editors is increasingly reflected in readers. Berliner noted that in 2011, 26 percent of the audience was still conservative. That has now decreased to just 11%. At some point, this percentage will likely reflect mere momentary dial confusion as NPR kicks out its last conservative listeners. Meanwhile, he still expects 100 percent of taxpayers to fund his programming and bias, even though his audience is closer to an estimated 70 percent liberal listeners.

The market tends to favor products and programs that the public desires. If demand for NPR is insufficient to support the budget, Congress should not make up the shortfall to support the programming. If it is sufficient, there is no need for subsidies.

This discussion shouldn’t be about whether you agree with the trends on the NPR show. NPR clearly wants to maintain a liberal voice in its programming, and has every right to do so. There is no right to federal funding.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University School of Law.

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