It’s easy to joke about the level of self-censorship at NPR, as I did recently, but hard to exaggerate the uselessness of a news operation whose managers constantly bend to kiss the asses of the right-wingers aiming to kill government funding for public media:
Freelance broadcaster Lisa Simeone was fired from public radio program Soundprint yesterday after NPR took issue with her role as a spokesperson for the Occupy DC protests, despite the fact that she is not officially employed by the organization.
Simeone’s conflict with NPR was first reported by Roll Call and eventually ended up on Fox News before she was officially fired, evoking another infamous NPR termination. “The whole thing, right down to the firing-by-phone-after-pickup-from-Fox, has echoes of the Juan Williams debacle,” wrote Politico’s Keach Hagey, “and is likely to worsen public radio’s political woes, even if Simeone was not an NPR employee.”
Soundprint isn’t actually produced by NPR and airs on affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C., but WAMU news director Jim Asendio said that the station shares NPR’s code of ethics, which states that “NPR journalists may not engage in public relations work, paid or unpaid,” excepting “certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue, or other institution of worship, or a charitable organization.”
As James Poniewozik pointed out last winter, one of the many ironies of the right’s war on public broadcasting is that eliminating government funding won’t kill “liberal programming” on “well-funded public outlets” in big population centers, but it might destroy public TV and radio outlets in sparsely populated areas.
Poniewozik noted that government-funded public broadcasting has already been neutered by the wing-nuts:
I actually do believe that public broadcasting — all of it — would be better, braver and more interesting if it had the independence that came from being entirely separated from the government and thus politics. But I can afford to believe that: I live in New York.
One of the problems is how to find a way to fund local public media in all parts of the country, not just areas densely populated enough to survive on donations from listeners and viewers.