Friday, October 22, 2010

How To Destroy Public Broadcasting

The recent firing of NPR commentator Juan Williams by NPR, for his remarks on Fox News Channel "The O'Reilly Factor" has led many to conclude that the only fix for Public Broadcasting is to destroy it. While I would be sad to see this institution go, and along with it the cultural opportunities, I'll concede critics of my post KCET Leaves PBS have a point. It just might be that Public Broadcasting, both in radio (NPR) and Television (PBS) are so corrupt and hard-left ideologically that there is no alternative but to destroy them both.

If that is the case, they must be completely destroyed. No half measures. Republican vows to defund PBS are not the answer, as removing government funding from PBS will not destroy it, indeed only amplify the influence of elites and hard-left Volk Marxists and billionaire leftists like George Soros. To destroy Public Broadcasting, Republicans must force a public auction for each broadcast license, for every radio and TV station, and rebate the money ENTIRELY to each taxpayer as a rebate check and stimulus action. Only in this way can Public Broadcasting be demolished.

As Wikipedia notes, about 60% or so of Public Broadcasting (TV) revenues come from private membership donations and grants. The same is generally true of NPR radio stations. Only 15% to 20% of operating revenue for the parent company of PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is from Federal sources. About 25% to 29% of the annual operating budget comes from State and Local taxes. The 2009 Budget for the CPB was about $400 million, about 90% of that distributed in one way or another to various member stations. This only accounts for about 17% of all funds to local PBS stations in 2006. The bulk of money (around 60%) comes from member donations, and grants from foundations and corporations. For example, the trouble with KCET and PBS stemmed from KCET getting about $40 million from BP, and PBS wanting its cut. State and local taxes (around 22% of local PBS revenues) and national underwriting and grants make up the rest of the PBS money.

Cutting the roughly $400 million a year that the CPB gets won't have much effect on PBS. It will still keep going. In order to destroy it, as much as possible, the system must be made to cede most of its network and reduce itself to a Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York outpost. The only way to do this is force an auction, for each broadcasting license, for each Public Broadcasting Television and Radio Station.

This will force the ugly, tangled nexus of the "charitable" foundations run by hard-left ideologues (the Ford Foundation, the Pew Foundation, the Tides Foundation of George Soros fame), corporations seeking hard-left buy-outs or buy-ins (much of the hard left agenda fits right in with profit seeking by hedge funds, or various self-serving companies promoting "green" direct subsidies to themselves like GE), to spend gobs of money to defend their core partnerships.

Right now, these groups fight above their weight, in terms of power, because they can piggy-back on free, public broadcasting that need not get an audience, due to the license being essentially, "free." Neither PBS nor NPR care much about ratings, or audience shares, only appealing to the same upscale, SWPL type of disdain for ordinary White people and traditional American culture (and Western culture, too). By forcing Soros, or the folks at the Ford Foundation, the Pew Foundation, the Kroc Foundation, and others, to spend and spend and spend to maintain the basic licenses, of key stations in the key metro areas, Republicans can reduce PBS to a tiny shell of its former self. Gone, completely, from the Prairie States, the South, Texas, the Mountain West, and much of the Pacific Northwest.

What numbers are we talking about? Well, there are 347 PBS stations in the US. There are about roughly 328 Public Radio Stations if you exclude College and Community Radio stations. reports that Radio Station KRBV (Black/Urban/Rap) will be sold for $137.5 million, by Radio One. KOCE in Orange County was sold for $32 million.

If we take the sale prices as roughly indicative of the value, (and yes, it is weird that the radio station sells for more than the TV station, but likely that is a function of how little Public Television Stations trade licenses), and note that WLNE in Providence, Rhode Island sold for $14 in 2007 (to Global Broadcasting by struggling Freedom Communications), WLNE being an ABC affiliate, that's not too bad a market price, well we can do some back of the envelope calculations.

Let's assume that each radio station will fetch, on average, about $100 million per license. Let's reduce the number from the crowded LA urban dial, by about $30 million, to account for smaller markets, and the like. That would net the government, which can force a sale, about $32.8 billion. Over the 138 million taxpayers in the US in 2007, that would be a check for $237. Not much, but most people would take the check over NPR stations they never listen to. The argument, politically, for giving everyone in America a check for about $240 by forcing the sale of Public Broadcasting Radio stations is pretty powerful. Particularly in a recession.

Now lets take the less profitable TV stations. Lets use the higher number, for KOCE, of $32 million. The forced sale would net, at auction, around $11.1 billion. Of course these are merely back of the envelope numbers. They could be higher, or lower, depending on the market price, bidders, and so on. But this is just an exercise in thinking. The amount if rebated to 138 million taxpayers would be about $80. So all told we are talking about $320 to each tax payer.

Or on the flip side, the expense of $43.9 billion, expended to keep the existing infrastructure of public television and radio stations. George Soros is rich. He's not that rich. Wikipedia (I know) lists him at about $7.2 billion net wealth. Carlos Slim has about $60 billion in net wealth. Not even Soros and the various tangle of foundations could spend that much money (around $44 billion) to keep the PBS and NPR operations national, and alive.

Thus, to destroy PBS and NPR, Republicans must make the successful argument that not only should the minor sums of $500 million or so per year be ended, but public auctions of the licenses be conducted, to force a few (likely in LA and other major Metro areas, like NYC, and Boston, and San Francisco) stations to fight to keep their license by expending most of their money (leaving little for operational budgets) and making the vast interior of the US "PBS and NPR free."

Of course, the cost of this will be the loss of jazz and classical stations in LA and many other areas. Along with various public affairs programming and the like. Very likely the major purchasers will be Spanish or Korean or Arabic or Persian language broadcasters. A show of what "diversity" really means, the crowding out of SWPL things as well as all things redneck. But perhaps it is worth it, to destroy a bastion of PC, and hard leftism.

It certainly has the advantage of pushing Democrats to explain why they won't put an extra $320 in everyone's pocket, to save Pacifica Radio, or other lunatic asylum broadcasters. And of course, forcing the current funders of Public Broadcasting to spend most of their money merely to defend a few castles, instead of the national system of outposts they have.


Amateur Strategist said...

If there is a big enough market for Jazz (or anything for that matter), then a radio station will eventually make one, if not, then they shouldn't be one.

Whiskey said...

Disclosure: I listen to KKJZ a lot. So I like it, not the least of which they have new artists on all the time, and don't have much else but music.

There's probably not a market for Jazz or Classical, so ending the Public Broadcasting system would end that.

Markets do fail, or fail to provide services needed to keep a society functioning: roads, sewers, the mail service, often telecommunications and broadcast spectrums are classed under "public goods" and are quasi-governmental at least. Fed Ex is great, but won't deliver much to rural places. Other smaller, rural places need government funded sewers, lights etc. because of dubious payback for private sources.

Herb Dregs said...

If we do that, we should auction off all the religious channels, too.

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

In my quick perusal of public radio stations under the wikipedia links, I did not see KMFA. I'm a supporter of KMFA, a public radio station that is not a NPR affiliate. Lots of clissical music and none of the bleeding heart liberal talk radio that is NPR. It is a community supported radio station, not something that is being funded by some "not for profit" megacorp.

I strongly support the concept of reserving the bottom end of the FM band for public radio, I think it does a lot more good for the public at large than selling it off to the highest bidder. I also support breaking up the huge corporation that are trying to monopolize the media. I don't think that is in the best interest of the American people.

The broadcast spectrum is a scarce resource that should be used to benefit everyone. Just selling it to the highest (or best connected bidder) is not a good idea.

Whiskey said...

Oz, KKJZ and KUSC are both at the bottom end of the dial here in SoCal. Yes they'd be the collateral damage.

But if you really want to destroy NPR and PBS, you'd have to auction off all of the licenses. The aim is to make the foundations and Soros spend all their money. Leaving them with none. Money attrition warfare.

I personally would prefer EVERY NPR radio station to be either classical or jazz with no other programs allowed, and PBS be restricted to Jazz, Opera, Ballet, and the Symphonies, along with national parks and museums. No Frontline, no NOVA, nothing else (maybe Mystery! and Masterpiece Theater, Sesame Street).

But most of my readers object saying they'd rather destroy it all, and the Juan Williams episode is good supporting evidence for them.

If you wish to Destroy Public Broadcasting, this is how you do it. It will have collateral damage though.

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

I disagree. The problem is NPR, not public radio. We need to figure out how to take down the 800 pound gorilla in the public radio sector, not how to destroy the entire public radio ecosystem just to get that one maurading beast.

ElectricAngel said...

I am old enough to remember when New York City had TWO FM Commercial Classical Music stations. WNCN went in the 80s, and WQXR was sold by the NY Times b/c it occupied a very valuable spot on the dial. There's now a listener-supported station at the end of the dial whose signal does not match.

The point being, there were once enough dollars in it to support 2 stations, and now none. Why is this?

no mo uro said...


I would include bluegrass/traditional American folk music (NOT 60's stuff that called itself folk music) with jazz and classical as cultural stuff that is important.

Beyond that, I like your plan to dismantle NPR/PBS. As I have said in the past, a broadcast entity that can't make it in the free market or with private donors only doesn't deserve to exist. And the plan generates revenues which are badly needed. Well done.

no mo uro said...

See this link for more on NPR:

site said...

Surely, the guy is totally just.