Monday, May 16, 2005

Taking us for a Ride

I love music, music of all kinds. Music I wish I heard more of on the radio.

Still, I'm an adaptable creature. There are wonderful internet webcasts and podcasts, there's iTunes, there are CDs and mp3s and all sorts of file sharing going on in the big bad world. If you want to hear music, you've got plenty of options.

Which is why I'm dismayed that there's a push going on to make NPR play more music.

Here's a passage from today's New York Times story, "A Battle Over Programming at National Public Radio."

About a quarter of [the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's] $400 million budget goes to radio, with most of the rest to television. NPR recently received a huge bequest from the estate of Joan B. Kroc, the widow of the founder of McDonald's, and it gets only about 1 percent of its overall funds directly from the corporation. But its member stations are far more reliant on the corporation's money, and they use a significant part of that to buy programs produced by NPR and others.

Last month, the corporation's board, which is dominated by Republicans named by President Bush, told the staff at a meeting that it should prepare to redirect the relatively modest number of grants available for radio programs away from national news, officials at the corporation and NPR said.

"We heard sentiments from the board that they are interested in support of more music," said Vincent Curran, a senior vice president in charge of the radio division. He said that the board had made no final decisions on funds.

Participants in that meeting said there was a brief discussion by board members in which one of them, Gay Hart Gaines, talked about the need to change programming in light of a conversation she had had with a taxi driver about his listening habits. Ms. Gaines, a Republican fund-raiser and the head of the political action committee of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, did not return a call to her office seeking comment.

I'm sorry, but taxi drivers have plenty of places to find music to jam along to as they find roundabout ways to take us around the corner.

We need news. Solid, in-depth reporting. Unslanted, but unflinchingly questioning those in power, whoever they might be. We need public radio news -- unbeholden to advertisers or ratings as much as possible, serving its listeners above all. NPR reaches people who don't read the paper, who don't find news on the internet.

Naturally, a Bush appointee like Kenneth Tomlinson (chairman of the CPB) wants to limit the news as much as possible -- particularly the news broadcasts that do their job in asking difficult questions of his boss, and letting people hear those answers. These people shun the truth like Pigpen shuns a bath. (Come to think of it, that might be why they're all so damn dirty, too.) We need NPR's news shows, and we need other news outlets to show some backbone, too.

The cabbies will just have to find something else to tap their toes to.



Sharon GR said...

This is horrifying. Thinly veiled censorship. I love NPR as the only truly Fair and Balanced news.

To whom can I write? How can we get a protest heard? Any ideas?

Greg! said...

I just posted a strongly worded comment on the CPB site. Perhaps it was unwise to give my e-mail, but I'm curious to see what (if any) response they give.
Of course, the secret police may nab me off the street and send me to Guantanamo well before I hear back from CPB.