Burning Question

Could NPR survive without federal funds?

A new scandal energizes conservatives who want to stop giving tax dollars to public radio stations. How badly would that hurt NPR?

Republicans are redoubling their efforts to cut off government funding for NPR, saying hidden-camera video of an NPR executive calling Tea Partiers "racist" proves that NPR has an unacceptable liberal bias. NPR gets less than 2 percent of its annual budget directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which receives more than $400 million a year from Congress. But the Corporation for Public Broadcasting also gives money directly to NPR member stations, which "could go dark" without the public funding. Does NPR need the government's money? (Watch a PBS discussion about NPR's future)

No. NPR will survive: We're talking about a "relatively tiny piece of money" here, says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker. Even the supposedly vulnerable local stations only stand to lose 10 percent of their funding. Layoffs and cost-cutting will prevent that from causing a "massacre." Then NPR will be able to worry about what it does best — producing "great journalism.""It's time for NPR to get off the government payroll"

Wait, this could do serious damage: Anything that hurts struggling local stations hurts NPR, says Deborah Potter at American Journalism Review. About a third of the network's revenue comes from the fees member stations pay for NPR programming. If Republicans succeed in hurling those stations into a financial crisis all at once, it could be "devastating" to NPR, and valued programs such as "All Things Considered.""Slow down, NPR"

Actually, losing funding will help NPR: With their clumsy conservative bashing, NPR's leaders "could hardly have done a better job of persuading Congress to zero out public radio funding," says Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner. But this is a blessing. The loss "may be painful in the short run," but ultimately it will make NPR a "better organization" because it will no longer "have to worry about pleasing politicians.""Why NPR should urge Congress to end its subsidy"

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