GOP Ready to Probe NPR's Federal Funding

The tens of millions of dollars in federal funding to National Public Radio (NPR) have come into question after Juan Williams’ firing. NPR terminated Williams’ after he said on Fox News that since 9/11, he gets nervous flying on airplanes with passengers wearing Muslim attire. NPR said Williams’ comments are “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.”

Kenneth Tomlinson, former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) which oversees NPR’s federal money said: “This kind of enforced leftwing political correctness is why the CPB and Congress should take a hard look at new regulations governing NPR and public broadcasting.”

Asked for response, an aide to Rep. Joe Barton (R.-Tex.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which authorizes the money for CPB, said that, “it is very likely that this will be a priority for Mr. Barton in the next Congress, should voters trust Republicans with their vote in November.”

The aide told HUMAN EVENTS exclusively that a hearing could focus on the larger issue of whether taxpayers’ money is paying to suppress free speech at NPR.

The CPB is an independent government agency that oversees the distribution of federal funds to public broadcasting outlets, including NPR and PBS. Through the CPB, NPR receives tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually as a public broadcasting entity, which by law, must be politically balanced.

“The CPB and the appropriate congressional committees should have the leadership of public broadcasting before them within a week to explain how this happened and to talk about new legislation that would prevent this kind of outrage from happening again,” Tomlinson told HUMAN EVENTS.

“The law demands that public broadcasting be balanced and public broadcasting be held to certain levels of accountability, said Tomlinson. “And the CPB should be using its bully pulpit to say, ‘This is wrong.’ The CPB should be on top of this.”

In response to Tomlinson, CPB’s Executive Vice President Michael Levy told HUMAN EVENTS exclusively that, “the Public Broadcasting Act requires CPB to assure that public television and radio stations and producers have ‘maximum freedom…from interference with, or control of, program content or other activities.’ NPR is an independent media business. NPR made a business decision to terminate Juan Williams’ contract.”

Levy said that “CPB is committed to … becoming even more diverse and focused on serving the needs of our changing society. On behalf of the American people who fund public radio and television, we remain committed to diversity of programming content, producers and viewpoints.”

CPB funds NPR via three revenue streams. First, CPB gives “occasional grants” to NPR, which totaled $8,015,374 since the beginning of 2009 to date ($4 million a year).

Second, Congress appropriated a special three-year, $78 million funds specifically for NPR. This funding stream gave NPR $26 million per year in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Third, NPR member stations receive funds from a $90 million per year congressionally mandated effort to support public radio stations in the U.S. The specific percent of the $90 million that goes to NPR member stations is unclear.

William had been a senior correspondent at NPR for ten years when he was summarily fired by phone on Wednesday night for comments he made on Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor.”

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous,” said Williams.

After firing Williams, NPR released a statement saying that “his remarks on‘The O’Reilly Factor’ this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

“It’s absolutely outrageous that NPR would seek to restrict the free speech of a journalist,” said Tomlinson, the former editor-in-chief of Readers Digest. “Williams, as a newsman, stated an observation which is a fact of life,”

“The firing of Juan Williams is a travesty,” said Tomlinson.