Saturday, March 19, 2011

House Passes Bill to Defund NPR

When I was organizing in Rochester, I was always surprised at the limited amount of news media that was available to the public. Despite the fact that Rochester is part of the “Big Five” (the five biggest cities in the state of New York), the main newspaper was tiny and it was common to have almost 3/4 of the paper filled with ads. While there were a few alternative weekly papers that provided some high quality reporting, most of the people I know there depended on public radio to get their news. Since the City is in the middle of a mayoral campaign and a crucial debate about how the school system will be run, reporters from the public radio station some of the only people who are actually broadcasting information that the public desperately needs.

Now with public radio playing such a crucial role in providing the public with information in a mid-sized city like Rochester, imagine how valuable public radio is in small towns and rural areas. While these areas might not be able financially support even a small newspaper, the people who live there still deserve to have access to the news. Furthermore, it’s important for someone to hold the local leaders accountable and make sure that the public is informed about what’s going on in their community. And that’s where public radio comes into play. If the Republicans in the House of Representatives have their way, however, public radio and those who depend on it for information will suffer.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill largely on party lines that would prevent public funds from receiving federal funding. The bill (HR 1076), which was introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorodo), didn’t receive any support from Democrats and even had seven Republicans vote against it. I therefore shouldn’t be too surprising that it isn’t likely to pass in the Senate and the White House has already expressed opposition. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that it represents how the Republicans are willing to cut programs that create jobs for thousands of Americans and provide valuable public services. In a time when these jobs and services are desperately needed, the GOP is hoping to cut these programs so they can win a few political points no matter what they will actual cause the public to lose.

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