House Votes to Defund National Public Radio

By Matt Cover | March 17, 2011 | 5:46 PM EDT

NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia Commons)

( – The House of Representatives voted 228-192 on Thursday to deny federal funding to National Public Radio, stripping the radio network of any federal tax money despite opposition from Democrats.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), would prohibit any federal grants, loans, or direct appropriations from going to NPR or its affiliates. The bill would also prohibit those affiliates from using federal funds to pay their dues or purchase content from NPR.

The bill targets two sources of funding for NPR: direct federal subsidies and member stations’ fees. While direct federal grants from entities such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Department of Education make up only two percent of NPR’s revenues, member station fees and dues account for 36 percent.

Those station fees are NPR’s largest single source of funding and are paid by member stations who want to buy NPR content like the ‘All Things Considered’ and ‘Car Talk’ programs.

Local public radio stations can still receive public funds from CPB and can still use those funds to produce their own content and maintain their own stations, but they cannot use those grants to pay NPR membership dues or purchase NPR content, under the legislation.

Republicans brought the bill to the floor under emergency consideration, bypassing the normal committee process, two days after their caucus was split over a three-week federal spending bill that did not address the concerns of many conservative House Republicans.

Democrats criticized the NPR legislation as a partisan, ideological effort to kill public radio.

“[T]hey want to destroy National Public Radio,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said of her Republican colleagues.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) defended the bill on the House floor, saying that contrary to Democrats’ claims, the bill did not defund local public radio stations or prevent them from using federal money to produce their own content.

“It is also important to recognize that this bill does not do a few things. It does not defund public radio stations,” Blackburn said during debate on Thursday. “They still may use federal funding to operate their station or to produce their own programming. Public radio stations may also continue to purchase programming from or other sources, just not with federal taxpayers’ dollars.

“We need to get NPR out of the taxpayer’s pocket,” she said.