As this blogger sits in his pajamas, writing this witty intro to today's post from Eags of the NY Fishwrap, the laptop is also playing iTunes with the audio stream of KUT2 KUT's all-news station, streaming online and broadcasting in HD radio. Currently, "The Diane Rehm Show" offers a panel discussion by a group of balanced (Right and Left) journalists on the current budget showdown. In this blogger's humble opinion, NPR is a national treasure. The Dumbos and their Teabagger ilk fear NPR because they fear the truth. If this is a (fair & balanced) defense of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, as amended, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
Red State Home Companion
By Timothy Egan
Tag Cloud of the following article
It gets pretty lonely out here on the lava beds of the Snake River Plain if you’re looking for something other than a right-wing rant for company on the car radio. From Twin Falls to Idaho Falls, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck rule the airwaves. Beck is on two stations in Pocatello, case you missed one of his conspiracy theories.
The public airwaves that brush over this beautiful piece of high country carry a monopoly of thought — that is, until you pick up the first scratchy sounds of KISU-FM. It’s run by a proud conservative, Jerry Miller, but he serves up something different for Eastern Idaho.
You get a music program called “Potato Head Blues,” maybe some city hall news — up to 30 hours a week of home-grown programming. On top of that, KISU-FM delivers “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “Car Talk,” “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” from the stellar lineup of NPR. Late at night, the crisp, authoritative tones of the BBC can be heard in the Idaho Rockies.
It seems illogical that when the Republican Congress took aim at public radio, they were going after an audio lifeline much loved by their own constituents in Red State America.
The big cities — they can take the hit. But up to 100 stations, mostly rural and small-town, might have gone dark if the cuts from the House had survived. In a multiple-prong attack on NPR, Republicans slashed funding for public broadcasting, then passed an additional “emergency” bill to prohibit independent stations from using federal grants to buy NPR programs.
Both cuts have been restored, for now. The amount of money at stake in targeting small stations — about $430 million — would have zero effect on the budget deficit, the Congressional Budget Office reported.
By comparison, the state of Idaho got $2.7 billion in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, according to the excellent data system compiled by the Environmental Working Group. This at a time when crop prices are at near-record highs and big corporate farms are flush.
So why go after such a meager sum for public radio, when it means so much to the least-populated areas of America?
Spite. Ideology. Choose your poison, it’s there. Some conservatives just hate public radio. They think it’s elitist, snooty pants, full of borrrrrrrring civil discussions and, OMG — that 20-minute piece on chanterelle mushrooms! Surely no one in Idaho Falls cares what the BBC World Service has to say about Ivory Coast.
“I can tell you what the people in rural communities are not doing with their free time: listening to public radio,” said Laura Ingraham, who comes up with such opinions from her home in the Washington, DC, metro area. Like a lot of the Beltway magpies who flock from one partisan clack-fest to the other without bothering with facts, Ingraham is clueless on this topic.
Even with a broadcasting signal much weaker than its competitors, KISU-FM is number six among 25 stations in morning-drive-time in the Pocatello region, a metro area of about 90,000, said Miller.
But “the government is subsidizing entertainment and journalism,” as George Will has argued. “Is there a shortage of either?”
Yes. There is. KISU-FM carries “Idaho Reports,” the longest-running legislative coverage program in the West. Rush Limbaugh is never going to cover the Boise statehouse — he tells them what to do.
As for entertainment, ask people in Appalachian Kentucky. There, one of the poorest areas of the country is given a lift by the small federal grants that help keep local bluegrass acts and regional storytellers on the air, as my colleague Katherine Q. Seelye reported this week.
Or visit one of the native villages of the Last Frontier State, where Alaska Public Radio serves 330 communities in an area the size of Ohio. That’s why Don Young, the Republican Congressman, is against eliminating money that is so vital to keeping rural areas in the national conversation.
Like most public radio stations, KISU gets by on the usual on-air begging, community support and help from the local college. But nearly 25 percent of its budget comes from a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Take that away — as Congress tried to do, and still plans to do in future budget fights — and Miller knows where he’ll be.
“Out on the street begging like Oliver with my tin cup,” he said in an interview. Still, he wishes he didn’t need a dime from the taxpayers.
“I’m a conservative,” he said. “I have a political philosophy that leans to the right. I know when I hear slanted reporting — and I do hear it sometimes on NPR. But on the whole, it’s very balanced and detailed.”
The current vendetta against public radio was whipped up by a heavily edited sting video of an NPR fundraiser, Ronald Schiller, who called Tea Party members “scary” and “racist” in speaking to a man posing as a donor. And, in a perfect parody of a liberal, this executive told the fake Muslim about the joys of Madeira wines.
“This tells us something about the internal culture of NPR,” said Representative Steve King of Iowa. Maybe. But it tells us nothing about its audience. Miller knows the passion of that audience, first hand. Here in the most conservative part of the country, being informative is not the same as being liberal.
So, the people the attacks on public radio will hurt most are those who tend to vote Republican, while listening to the best radio friend of Red State America — and see nothing inconsistent about it. Ω
[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]
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