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Public Statements

Prohibiting Federal Funding of National Public Radio

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1076, a bill to get the Federal Government--and Federal taxpayers--out of the business of buying radio programming they do not agree with. This is a bill that is long overdue. Regardless of what you think of NPR, its programming or statements by its management, the time has come to cut the umbilical cord from the taxpayer support that has become as predictable as an entitlement program.

Much has changed, Mr. Speaker, in the media landscape since the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created in 1967, followed by its creation of National Public Radio in 1970. Today, we have multiple listening choices. There is analog radio, digital radio, satellite radio, streaming radio over the Internet, and podcasts--both commercial and the self-published variety. Choice and available content are not the problem. If you want to find some content, the only question is where you will find it.

In these challenging economic times, committing the taxpayer to fund and support particular content, including content he or she may never listen to, highlights this absurd anachronism of the past. It is time to move forward and to let National Public Radio spread its wings and support itself.

This legislation does several important things. It prohibits the direct Federal funding of National Public Radio; and more importantly, it ensures that American taxpayers will not be funding through their tax dollars radio programming from NPR or other outlets with which they may not agree.

It is also important to recognize that this bill does not do a few things. It does not defund public radio stations. I want to repeat that, Mr. Speaker, because I think it is such an important point. It does not defund public radio stations. They still may use Federal funding to operate their stations or to produce their own programming. Public radio stations may also continue to purchase programming from NPR or other sources, just not with Federal taxpayer dollars. Also, this bill has no impact--I want to repeat that--no impact on public television.

The added benefit of this legislation is that it ensures that, if taxpayer dollars are necessary and given to local stations, the money will not be used to purchase generic national programming but, instead, can be used to produce local content that actually will meet the needs of the communities in which these are located.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, since the previous speaker talked a little bit about NPR and its listening audience, I would like to make certain that the record reflects a little bit about that listening audience.

We know that more men than women listen to NPR, except for the classical music, which is 48 percent female. Baby boomers are a big part of their audience.

We also know that NPR, according to their Web site, says that their audience is extraordinarily well educated. Nearly 65 percent of all listeners have a bachelor's degree, compared to only a quarter of the U.S. population.

We also know that they are wealthy listeners, Mr. Speaker. NPR households tend to be more affluent than other households as a result of their educational attainment. The median household income of an NPR news listener is about $86,000, compared to the national average of about $55,000.

We also know that when it comes to geography, more than 99 percent of the U.S. population has access to at least one NPR station. And then, when it comes to employment, the majority of NPR listeners, 63 percent, are employed full time.

Mr. Speaker, again, I repeat the point. The object of this today is to get NPR out of the taxpayers' pockets. It is time for us to do this. It is time for this structure to be changed. It is time for us to be good stewards and save the money of the American taxpayer. This is another step toward that goal.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, in response to this statement that there are no savings, may I point my colleagues to a CRS report on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Federal funding and issues, and I will be happy to submit this for the Record.

Reading from it: ``NPR, Incorporated, which oversees the NPR system, states that annually NPR receives direct funding in the range of $1.5 million to $3 million from three Federal agencies and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Those are the National Endowment for the Arts, the CPB, the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Department of Education.''

Now, Mr. Speaker, what we are saying is you can't do that anymore. This is one of the steps that we have to take in order to straighten out this budgeting process. Our country does not have the money to spend on this. NPR does not need the money. They will not be able to get these grants. We will save those dollars.

The American taxpayer has said, Get your fiscal house in order. This is a step in that process. I know they don't like it, but, you know what? This is something we can do. This is something we will do. This is something the American people want to make certain that we do so that we get this Nation back on a firm fiscal and sound fiscal policy.

The day has come that the out-of-control Federal spending has to stop. A good place to start is by taking NPR out of the taxpayer's pocket.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I do think our colleagues across the aisle are missing the point on this. We are responsible for making certain that this fiscal house gets in order. This is just another of those steps. This bill is not about taking NPR off the air. There is nothing here that says you will take NPR off the air.

What it simply says is, if you are an affiliate station and if you want to pay NPR dues, you can't use taxpayer dollars. If you want to buy NPR programming, you cannot use taxpayer dollars for that. The taxpayers want NPR out of their pockets. Now, there is plenty of popular programming out there, and if listeners want to hear that, we are not trying to disenfranchise those listeners. Indeed, if listeners like the NPR they have, they can keep it. What we're saying is that they need to raise the money for this.

We went through the demographics for NPR: college-educated; 63 percent have full-time jobs; the average household income is upwards of $86,000 a year. They have a list of sponsors who give over $1 million a year to NPR. NPR, itself, has said it does not need our taxpayer funding. So this is a place that we can save some money.

Now, to those who say it is a job-killing program, may I remind you, indeed, to develop local programming, I articulated 17 different positions that are attached to creating even one radio show. Unlike some of my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, I fully believe there are talented people--talented writers and editors and programmers--all across this great Nation who would love to have a platform for the great ideas and the content they would like to create.

I want to encourage all of my colleagues to take a step in the right direction in getting our fiscal house in order. The time has come for us to claw back this money. The time has come for us to send a message. We need to get NPR out of the taxpayers' pockets. I encourage a ``yes'' vote on H.R. 1076.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I think we all agree that this Nation's children, our children and our grandchildren are an incredibly important part of our lives and protecting those children, protecting their future.

We all agree that it is important that we put this Nation on a firm fiscal footing. Now, while we all heartily support the AMBER Alert program, we also know there is nothing in the H.R. 1076 that would prohibit the AMBER Alert program. What we also know is that this is a procedural move by the minority to try to derail the funding to NPR.

As I said, as we talked about the bill, it is imperative that we be good stewards of the taxpayers' money, that we get this fiscal house in order. It is time to get NPR out of the taxpayers' pocket. The underlying bill does that.

I encourage a ``no'' vote on the motion to recommit. I encourage an ``aye'' vote on H.R. 1076.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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