Last Updated:May 22 @ 07:45 pm

Kincaid: Public Broadcasting Mobilizes Against Romney


As Mitt Romney says, it doesn’t make sense to borrow money from China to pay for public TV or radio. But terminating the funding is easier said than done. The reason: there are more than 900 local public radio stations and more than 350 local public television stations which receive support from the taxpayer-financed Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and lobby for the money. These entities put enormous pressure on Congress.

The CPB, which supports the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), receives approximately $450 million annually from federal taxpayers.

“I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS, and I like PBS,” Romney said in the debate. “I love Big Bird. I, actually, like you too,” referring to PBS moderator Jim Lehrer.

“I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS” is a strong statement. How will he do it? And what will the campaign do now that the public broadcasting entities are waging a political lobbying campaign against Romney’s proposed cuts?

We at AIM ran up against this lobbying power in 2005 when we commenced an effort to educate members of Congress on the need to eliminate the subsidies. “AIM urges George Soros, Ted Turner and other liberal elites to step forward and take American taxpayers off the hook for the $400 million being spent annually on public broadcasting,” we said at the time.

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In fact, Soros did contribute $1.8 million to National Public Radio in 2010 but the federal funding has also continued.

Right after the Obama-Romney debate, KCET, a Southern and Central California public  television station based in Los Angeles, sent an email: “This week, we heard from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who made mention of his plans to cut federal funding for public media. As we all know, this would work to destabilize all public media organizations, which still receive federal funding from CPB, including KCET.”

This sky-is-falling scaremongering is probably being replicated by other public TV and radio stations.

PBS itself said, “We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation.”

The public broadcasting establishment is clearly fighting back, demonstrating the difficulty of cutting spending for liberal pet projects.

Defending PBS, CEO Paula Kerger told CNN’s Carol Costello, “We’re America’s biggest classroom.”

This is unfortunately the case, as Tina Trent and Mary Grabar wrote in the AIM report, “PBS: Re-Educating America’s Schoolchildren, Thanks to Your Contributions.” This re-education is designed to make kids into left-wing activists and followers of Barack Obama.

Romney has mentioned cutting PBS funding several times, as we noted in our report, “Romney Wants to End Federal Funding of Public TV.” But he has not offered any specific plan to do that. And if he wants to work with Democrats in Congress, as he did with Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature when he was governor, he has to explain how he intends to fight them on this subsidy.

Meanwhile, as part of the push against Romney on this issue, Association of Public Television Stations President Patrick Butler said in a statement, “Governor Romney’s call for the elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting during last night’s debate has generated an extraordinary—and overwhelmingly negative—public response.”

The liberal media do not comment on the propriety of taxpayer-supported entities lobbying against a Republican candidate and for more subsidies. In effect, public TV and radio have become part of Obama’s campaign.

On the state level, there is some progress, however. Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the state’s nearly $4.8 million appropriation for public broadcasting.

In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell vetoed $424,000 from government-subsidized radio and television. He said, “When I took office, I pledged to refocus state government on its core functions by finding ways to make government more efficient and effective, and to wisely spend the hard earned money of Virginia taxpayers. In today’s free market, with hundreds of radio and television programs, government should not be subsidizing one particular group of stations. We must get serious about government spending. That means funding our core functions well, and eliminating spending on programs and services that should be left to the private sector. This is a smart, practical budgeting decision to make Virginia government smaller and more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.”

After the debate, at a rally in Madison, Obama joked, “But I just want to make sure I got this straight. He’ll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he’s going to crack down on Sesame Street. Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird. Who knew that he was responsible for all these deficits? Elmo has got to watch out.”

In fact, the money has piled up and is not a joking matter. AIM had documented back in 2005 that public broadcasting entities had received over $8 billion from the taxpayers since their creation.

Writing in the Boston Herald, in trying to explain Obama’s debate performance, Joe Battenfeld wrote, “Maybe Mitt Romney’s threat to cut off the legs of the lovable ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet traumatized President Obama.”

It is certainly the case that Romney touched a nerve. American taxpayers should monitor their local public TV and radio stations for improper political campaigning against Romney and protest the use of their tax dollars in this manner when it occurs.


Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at

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  1. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    October 8, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    “Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation.” WHAT???? The return on investment to the Democrat Party which no longer teaches that the free market place of ideas should determine which media entity succeeds and which fails. Let the viewers determine if the PBS propaganda arm of the Democrat Party is worthy to exist. Why should Conservative citizens be forced to fund an ideology antithetical to the ideas of American Execptionalism and success but would put us all in the trash can with Bert and Ernie.

    “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” –Thomas Jefferson.

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    • gopluvaComment by gopluva
      October 8, 2012 @ 10:36 am

      Yes, why should we pay for something like PBS that china helps us pay for(we borrow mucho dinero) from china and does not ever reflect our values or the values that made it possible for them to have their views.

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    • MortComment by Mort
      October 8, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

      I agree! Why is it alright for PBS to take sides in a political battle when all sides pay their bills? NO mention of politics should be allowed on these programs. Many of their hosts are known supporters of the Liberals- 100%. They don’t try to hide their disdain for conservatives. Sure there are programs that are good on PBS but their defference to the Dems should never be allowed, as long as they take one cent of our money. Even CNN sometimes puts in a little jab at the Libs. Not often, but sometimes. PBS has NEVER shown this as their stance. Liberal all the way!

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    • inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
      October 8, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

      Just more redistribution of honest labor to support dishonest Liberal ideas. Let them pay for their own destruction of America and free us from the guilt by association of financing it.

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  2. tomtComment by tomt
    October 8, 2012 @ 9:40 am

    PBS has become a sounding board for the Left on to many occasions where our tax dollars have been spent to soften opposition to Socialist activity and History.
    The PBS commentator’s presentations are also bias in their delivery. We prefer to ignore the PBS Channels unless for a nature presentation.
    Infiltration of Media was also on the Agenda for Community Organizers put forth in that Dec. 1968 SDS Community Organizing recruitment meeting at SUNY, Oneonta, NY.
    Recruitment for the Venceremos Brigade to Cuba was also presented at this time to the SDS Regional Council.

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  3. tomtComment by tomt
    October 8, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    PBS has become a sounding board for the Left on to many occasions where our tax dollars have been spent to soften opposition to Socialist history and activity.
    The PBS commentator’s presentations are also bias in their delivery especially during this presidential campaign. We prefer to ignore the PBS Channels unless for a presentation of a good nature documentary .
    (Infiltration of Media was also on the Agenda for Community Organizers put forth in that Dec. 1968 SDS Community Organizing recruitment meeting at SUNY, Oneonta, NY.
    Recruitment for the Venceremos Brigade to Cuba was also presented at this time to the SDS Regional Council.)

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  4. linfComment by lin
    October 8, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    If CPB and PBS believed their own talking points, that their product is appreciated and “necessary”, it seems they wouldn’t worry about funding it. They also claim their primary funding comes not from the taxpayers but from private donations. It seems logical to just let those contributors continue to donate without using the government as a middleman for part of the funds. Those who want the product can take whatever tax savings they gain by stopping government funding and forward it directly to PBS. In fact, they can delineate exactly which programs they seek to fund. Seems that would be much closer to what CPB/PBS claims is their model.

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  5. diamondjimComment by diamondjim
    October 8, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    PBS offers some wonderful programming, and I thoroughly enjoy watching many of them. But PBS already gets major funding from foundations and its listeners/viewers,(including me) and Mitt is right: There is simply no reason to borrow money from China to fund PBS. PBS can do fine on its own. It claims to have no commercials, but it does–they just run them in blocks at the beginning and end of programs rather than every 5 minutes throughout the program as commercial stations do–and they call their backers “supporters” instead of sponsors.

    Listeners/viewers, foundations, and businesses will support popular programs like Sesame Street, (Big Bird’s production company is raking in millions from toy licenses, books,and videos) but PBS will have to weed out some of junk they produce–and they do produce some along side the highly-acclaimed stuff.Nothing new about their leftward tilt either–they are no different from other major media in that regard.

    I like a guy who tells it like it is and sticks to his principles, but I do wonder if it was really smart of Romney to pick a fight with PBS in front of 80 or 90 million folks with Jim Lehrer sitting there! No one should be surprised that they are fighting back to protect their turf!

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  6. goodguynyComment by goodguyny
    October 8, 2012 @ 10:45 am

    Public Radio should be just that PUBLIC. Supported by it’s viewers. Not every taxpayer and foreign countries.
    I thought it was quite appropriate for Mitt TO say that in front of Lehrer. He definitely made a point. I want a president with a backbone that says what he means. Obama mumbled his way through this entire debate and had nothing to say about PBS let alone anything else. And PBS is hardly a critical issue in this years election.

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  7. MorganComment by Morgan
    October 8, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    Public Radio and Television can do just what any other Radio and Tv station does. Sell advertising to earn their keep. Our local PBS stations is always asking for donations at various levels from $50 to $250 and up. I say defund them with taxpayer money.

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  8. JDZComment by JDZ
    October 8, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    Mitt Romney is a straight arrow and I trust him to do what is best for this country much more then President Obama and his cohorts. Obama is the most politically motivated President in my lifetime and it seems like he spends most of his time traveling and campaigning and raising money for his campaign rather then running the government. He has allowed Valerie Jarrett and his wife to run the Whitehouse and has little interest in going into detail on anything, and just takes the speeches he is given and goes on the road.

    Because Obama is more of a theoretical broad brusher and very ideological driven he does not like debating anyone or answering any tough interview questions because he cannot get into details on any subject on his own. He takes the speeches he is given and does an outstanding job of presenting them, but it is all PR and has no depth to fill in any details.

    He is going to have a continual problem with Mitt Romney in these debates who is a data geek and is very detail oriented and can go down as deep as he needs to on just about relevant matter.

    I think that the American people are beginning to see that the Emperor has no clothes and is not up to the job as our President. You can judge this by his dismal performance in his first term.

    This country deserves better and we have maybe the strongest two men to ever run as President and VP candidates in our history in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. We must elect them in November.

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  9. prairelivingComment by praireliving
    October 8, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    Sacred cows make the best burgers!

    Wish this was original to me but it sure fits the situation (and apologies to those whose religion views cows as sacred…no offense intended).

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  10. flyfisherman12Comment by flyfisherman12
    October 8, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    Big Bird merchandise sales rake in millions a year. Foundation contributions do the same. PBS fund drives do the same. Should we be asked to foot the bill to pay their executives anywhere from $600,000 to $900,000 in salaries? I don’t think so.

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  11. cdrcodyComment by cdrcody
    October 8, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

    Romney made a mistake there. he should never mention specifics as the will always use them against him. He should say something like: “There are government programs set up to do a specific task. There are also other agencies that have programs that duplicate the original program. The idea is to keep the original program and eliminate the duplicates. This will save many million dollars in the budget”.

    If he is asked what programs, his response is simple: “Look it up for yourself. I’m not going to do your homework for you. It is supposed to be your job to keep track of these things”.

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