Is Killing NPR Funds the Answer to America’s Debt Crisis?

Deficit Committee proposes cutting funds for public broadcasting, but critics say “foreclosing on ‘Sesame Street’ is not an option”

The National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a bipartisan committee charged with cutting the federal budget, just published the first draft of the plan it submitted to President Obama — one that would save the federal government $200 billion over the next five years, and put a dent into the country’s trillion-dollar deficit.

Among the bold recommendations proposed by so-called “Deficit Commission” co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — like cutting defense spending by $100 billion, reducing annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security, increasing retirement age to 69 — is one to cut federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, specifically, NPR and PBS.

Here’s that part of the proposal, which is sure to gain Bill O’Reilly’s support:

The nonpartisan Free Press group immediately fired back.

“Foreclosing on Sesame Street is not the answer to reducing our national deficit,” Free Press president Josh Silver said in a statement. “It is inconceivable at a time when commercial news is dominated by five-second soundbytes, yelling pundits and little actual journalism, that this commission would consider eliminating funding to one of the few remaining sources of enterprise journalism and educational programming. PBS and NPR are the most trusted media brands in America — and clearly the benefits of noncommercial media warrant more public investment, not less.”

Silver continued: “The United States already has among the lowest funded public media systems in the developed world … It's far past time for the creation of a public media trust fund that can protect programmers from undue political pressure and financial uncertainty, and can support the production of more high-quality noncommercial news, and educational and cultural programming.”

However, NPR fans may not need to worry. The co-chairs acknowledged that their proposal would not likely gain support from the 14 of 18 commission members needed to launch a Congressional debate.

"We're not asking anybody to vote for this plan,” Bowles said. “This is a starting point.”