Tattered Tutorial: CBS Un-factually Claims 'Less than One Tenth' of NPR's Budget Comes from Taxpayers

November 18th, 2010 4:42 PM

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes drew a whirlwind of attention for using the German N-word in describing NPR's purge of Juan Williams in an interview with Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast: “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.” Ailes quickly apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for the Nazi comment. But Brian Montopoli at CBS's Political Hotsheet blog took that story and dropped a real un-factual whopper about NPR's taxpayer subsidies:

Putting aside the Nazis comment, the claim that NPR (previously known as National Public Radio) uses government funding to "keep them alive" is questionable at best: Even when indirect funding is included, less than one tenth of NPR's budget comes from taxpayer dollars. It receives no direct federal funding for operations.

That not only ignores grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but grants from other federal agencies like the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The "less than one tenth" link takes you to a previous Montopoli blog post -- which doesn't match the claim he's making. He found "a hole" in NPR's wacky claims to be barely funded by government:

Here's how [NPR CEO Vivian] Schiller breaks it down: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which covers both radio and television, gets $90 million per year in federal funding that goes to member public radio stations, not NPR itself. (This would be your local NPR affiliate.) She said any money NPR gets from the CPB comes via grants it has to apply for, and those grants only make up a tiny percentage of the overall NPR budget...

"NPR gets no allocation from CPB," Schiller said. "Zero. We are a private 501(c)3. We've had journalists call up and ask what department of the government we report to. That's laughable."

There appears to be something of a hole in her argument, however: If the CPB sends most of its radio money to member stations, and the member stations pay dues to NPR, doesn't NPR still end up getting taxpayer money via member stations, in addition to the one to three percent it gets via grants?

Hotsheet contacted Anna Christopher, senior manager of media relations at NPR, to address that question. She acknowledged that "a proportion of every station's budget goes to pay NPR dues." That means, she said, that "there is an indirect amount coming in" via member station dues.

NPR officials constantly play this dishonest shell game -- CPB grants to NPR stations, NPR stations send back money for programs, but that's somehow not "from taxpayer dollars." It doesn't match with Montopoli implying it's preposterous for conservatives to claim NPR needs federal funds to "keep them alive'?

Montopoli joined CBS's online operations for their short-lived, post-Rather-fiasco media-accountability site "Public Eye." But in this Ailes report, Montopoli offered no accountability at all to NPR number-fudgers.