The split GOP take on public broadcasting: What happens in D.C., stays there

It is peculiar how certain red-meat issues among Republicans travel poorly between Washington and Georgia.

Last year’s health care overhaul obviously incited GOP angst in both D.C. and the state Capitol. Abortion continues to prompt near-universal condemnation from Republicans. Gay marriage, too — though that may be slowly changing.

But it is the Republican attack on public broadcasting that has landed with something of a dull thud in Georgia.

Two weeks ago, the GOP-controlled U.S. House voted 228-192 to block federal funding of National Public Radio. Among many tea partyers, public broadcasting — including Big Bird — has become one of the most glaring symbols of government excess.

“In an age when there are almost limitless outlets from which Americans can get the news, even bordering on information overload, there is no reason for taxpayers to be subsidizing NPR,” declared U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell.

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, the Republican from Ranger, made the defunding of “snooty” NPR the topic of a fund-raising letter.

“As I travel across Georgia, I tune in to hear Glenn Beck or Rush [Limbaugh], [Sean] Hannity or catch the news or just relax to good ole country music,” Graves wrote.

But it is not a unanimous opinion. U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, another newcomer to Congress, was one of only seven House Republicans to vote against the NPR defunding measure — because, he said, it represented no actual decrease in federal spending.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss was more forthright. “You know, an awful lot of conservatives listen to NPR,” the senator said — in an interview on WABE (90.1FM), Atlanta’s NPR affiliate. “I think total elimination of funding is probably not the wisest thing to do.”

Such opinions grow even stronger on red clay.

Far from shrinking in Georgia, public broadcasting’s reach is about to grow. The Federal Communications Commission this month gave final approval to the state’s newest Georgia Public Broadcasting affiliate — WUGA-TV in Athens, owned and operated by the University of Georgia.

Two years ago, the university bought struggling WNEG-TV in Toccoa “for a song” of $1.2 million in private funds — and attempted to run the station as a commercial venture, said Tom Jackson, UGA’s vice president of public affairs.

But the Great Recession was a poor time to invest in media. The venture failed.

GPB affiliation will cost the university about $600,000 a year, Jackson said, which will be paid for — again — with private funds.

The station will give journalism students a place to practice their craft and researchers a venue to display their discoveries in documentary form. And it will give UGA sports not bound by contract — think women’s softball — statewide TV exposure.

The Legislature is about to wrap up work on an $18.2 billion budget. Included will be the state’s 46 percent share of GPB’s $29 million budget. The agency endured a 4.7 percent cut, but not one GOP soul argued publicly that the state should abandon its 50 years in the broadcasting business.

Possibly this is because Republicans in the state Capitol have a sense of ownership in GPB. Two years ago, Gov. Sonny Perdue named former CNN executive Teya Ryan as the head of Georgia Public Broadcasting — putting a professional in a position usually filled with patronage in mind.

Gov. Nathan Deal has kept Ryan in place, which implies some confidence in her performance.

One of Perdue’s last acts as governor was to appoint his former communications director, Bert Brantley, to GPB’s seven-member governing board.

“The discussion nationally is not the same as the discussion here,” Brantley said. “My Republican friends, they actually like GPB. At least, they’re not telling me if they don’t.”

Branding has something to do with the difference, Brantley said.

“The reputation that GPB has is much different than what you hear about the rhetoric about [national] public broadcasting and NPR. GPB is seen as a neutral arbiter.”

Like Chambliss, Brantley also argues that GPB programming fills a void — particularly for Georgia’s rural communities — that goes unduplicated by commercial TV.

A spokeswoman for GPB said more than 500,000 viewers watched the 2010 high school football championships on GPB — a 22 percent increase over 2009.

Ryan has also beefed up GPB’s 7 p.m. political coverage. (Full disclosure: I occasionally appear, gratis, on “Prime Time Politics” as a commentator.)

That coverage is important in an economic climate, Brantley said, that has ravaged TV stations in Georgia’s hinterlands.

But the bottom line is that we’re far less suspicious of the things that lay within our own control. “If my Republican pedigree helps in some way, then that’s great,” Brantley said. “But mainly I think I’m just a fan of what they’ve done.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

46 comments Add your comment


March 30th, 2011
7:09 pm

Hey RINOs – the party’s over. We can’t afford it.

rural ga resident

March 30th, 2011
7:23 pm

I enjoy GPB, it has great programing for everyone in the family. I don’t pay for cable or dish when there are free channels available. I support my gpb station.

Rafe Hollister

March 30th, 2011
7:35 pm

Chambliss has always been quick to sell out his constituents, Woodall is establishing his credentials. I would think about their statements, if I had a decent choice as an opponent.

GPB does do a good job with their programing, however, I see no reason for the taxpayers to pay for funding any media outlet. Believe me there are about 200 channels on Dish and Direst TV that have little of interest to broadcast. If there were no GPB some channel would pick up the programing, because I am sure many are desperate for programing.

As for as the poor, who can’t afford Cable or Satellite. It would be cheaper on the taxpayers to pay for their Cable/Satellite service than to continue to fund, NPR and the CPB.


March 30th, 2011
7:37 pm

Large cities can fund PBS and NPR but rural areas suffer. Clear channel owns most small stations and local news is hard to find. NPR provides that in rural areas. It’s the smaller public radio stations that will be forced to close and they provide a service.
Since I live in Atlanta it wouldn’t affect me but I don’t mind my 1/1000 of a cent in taxes going to promote radio and local news in rural areas.
Getting rid of it wouldn’t decrease the budget deficit.


March 30th, 2011
7:41 pm

“U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, another newcomer to Congress, was one of only seven House Republicans to vote against the NPR defunding measure…”

Unexpected, and probably not the will of his constituents. Rob keeps this up he might have a Republican challenger two years down the road.

Road Scholar

March 30th, 2011
7:43 pm

I wonder if GPB had the rights to broadcast UGA sports whether they would get full funding? They do provide the most unbiased and in depth news reporting!

Just Wait

March 30th, 2011
8:03 pm

Man, you Republicans are tough. I wonder if Glen Beck said UGA football was Satan’s sport, you would drop them too!


March 30th, 2011
8:18 pm

RINOs days are numbered……If you want, support Public TV and radio. I do not agree with their obvious bias so I do not want my tax money used for them. They can compete with the other stations that are free.


March 30th, 2011
8:19 pm

Oh..I do not like G Beck either.


March 30th, 2011
8:28 pm

Mentioning Sesame Street’s Big Bird and high school football games is a ruse to distract from the very liberal slant of PBS. Saying that UGA uses private funds for GPB ignores the tax dollars sent there that will have to cover what those private funds would otherwise be spent upon.


March 30th, 2011
9:05 pm

Whats important is getting tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and giving corporations/businesses free land, free buildings, property tax abatements, free water, free sewar, free paving, free rail spurs etc etc paid for by taxpayers. Republicans are beginning to suck right along with the development nuts who pull their strings.


March 30th, 2011
9:23 pm

5.4 mil is a drop in the bucket and for the GOP to act as if they have accomplished meaningful budget reduction by this is a joke.


March 30th, 2011
9:55 pm

You’ve got to love it when the grassroots attack the few rational GOPpers who think that maybe, just maybe public broadcasting isn’t the den of radical, fill in the remainder of obligatory adjectives, liberals they’ve heard it is, without listening or watching it. Poor Lois Reitzes, what will she do with her mornings?

Debbie Dooley

March 30th, 2011
10:01 pm

Woodall must go!

The Centrist

March 30th, 2011
10:30 pm

People who claim that they don’t want their tax dollars to fund NPR do not realize that the advertisers of FOX News programmimg get taxpayers to underwrite their costs by getting a tax deduction?


March 30th, 2011
10:45 pm

“The” (non) Centrist is a poser leftist.


March 30th, 2011
10:58 pm

“is a ruse to distract from the very liberal slant of PBS. ”

Please explain, how is PBS very liberal?

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights.....

March 31st, 2011
12:07 am

PBS is the Satan’s playground of liberals, commies, marxists & treasonous renegade pinko traitors and must be destoyed immediately! But on the other hand they do have some good programming on the network that I love, especially as I learned to read while watching Sesame Street as a small child. By the way, I love GPB’s 7pm political coverage lineup and do look forward to seeing you on “Prime Time Politics”, Jim. Go BIG BIRD!!!

What? Was I too hard-line right-wing with the conservative talking points at the beginning of my comments?

Alabama Communist

March 31st, 2011
12:33 am

“In an age when there are almost limitless outlets from which Americans can get the news, even bordering on information overload, there is no reason for taxpayers to be subsidizing NPR,” declared U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell. usual Congressman Price has forgot that majority of the news is totaly control by 4 or 5 Republican Establishment Mainstream Wall Street Corporations……..Some say it nothing but a mouthpiece for State Fascism

Real Athens

March 31st, 2011
1:23 am


March 31st, 2011
4:38 am

You bunch of goobers. These morons are running after NPR and doing nothing about jobs and the economy. Your GOP representatives are self sufficient unlike you folks who voted them in office and now they what you to watch beck, hannity and the rest of those other goobers for your news. You people deserve exactly what these elected officials are doing which is absolutely nothing.

tyrone from east point

March 31st, 2011
6:25 am

We can’t afford NPR.
Defund NPR and public tv.


March 31st, 2011
6:30 am

I have been an NPR listener for 30 years and there is no doubt that NPR is a very liberal news outlet, although NPR itself fails to realize this fact. I fail to see why taxpayers funds are used to advance their liberal agenda. I also would agree that NO private corporations should receive government welfare.

Logic 05

March 31st, 2011
6:30 am

Why should the government be in the news or entertainment business?


March 31st, 2011
6:31 am

“As I travel across Georgia, I tune in to hear Glenn Beck or Rush [Limbaugh], [Sean] Hannity or catch the news or just relax to good ole country music,” Graves wrote.

So apparently he gets all his information from a drug addict and a guy who never went to college. And we’re supposed to trust people like that to bring America into the 21st century.


March 31st, 2011
6:33 am

I listen to Boortz and Hannity for a good laugh. Most of what they bloviate about is not factual. And they are honest. They tell their listeners that they are entertainers–not journalists. I love NPR for so many things–most of which are not political. They have people from all fields of endeavor–science, engineering, literature, music…the list goes on. Most importantly, they have people that have differing opinions on subjects. For example, climate change. The right-wingers bash the idea of climate change. Boortz spouts off about his “scientific” knowledge. Evidently, between becoming a lawyer and a bloviator, he took some courses in engineering. What a joke! On NPR, they will feature scientists on both sides of the issue that tell you what data they look at, how they arrive at their theories. NPR has already slashed programming in the past few years. I hope they don’t go away. By the way , while Boortz makes me laugh with his ignorance, Garrison Keilor (spelling?) is way funnier!

Sam I Am

March 31st, 2011
6:47 am

Defund, we need the money for a fourth war.

Ga Values

March 31st, 2011
7:50 am

NPR should be defunded as should ETHANOL. all farm subsudues, foreign aid, and all other corporate welfare.

I will be taking pledges for WABE this afternoon from 3:30- 7:00, so give us a call and put your money where your mouth is. Better yet contribute online….

Ga Values

March 31st, 2011
7:52 am

WABE’s pledge phone # is 678-553-9393


March 31st, 2011
8:06 am

GPB is shrewd to broadcast high school sports – especially the football playoffs and championship. That alone has built them a constituency that will support their existence regardless of ideology.

Ga Values

March 31st, 2011
8:38 am

The correct number for WABE is.. sorry I screwed up above..678.553.9090

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

March 31st, 2011
8:47 am

Sounds like GPB has been buying some steaks and some scotch for some good ol boys in Atlanta and in DC.

Buzz G

March 31st, 2011
8:56 am

Saxbe Chambliss has been morphing into Ted Kennedy. He is becoming the poster boy for politicians who run as conservative and vote liberal. He should not be representing a conservative state like Georgia. It is time to get him out of there. Sadly, we won’t have an opportunity for several more years.


March 31st, 2011
9:08 am

I have always had a problem with government ownership of newspapers, radio and TV. You may now add the internet to that list.

Last Man Standing

March 31st, 2011
9:47 am

PBS should have plenty of money without federal funding. All I’ve been able to watch on PBS lately is begging! I NEVER listen to NPR so their lack of broadcasting would be no loss to me.

red herring

March 31st, 2011
9:56 am

Government should not be in public broadcasting. What has NPR in trouble is their over zealous liberal reporting to the american people in general. Our tax dollars should not be used in this fashion and these entities while having some programs with real entertainment and education values should still have to rely on their ability to make it on their own. If my tax payer dollars are to be used in this fashion then the liberal bias should be removed from these stations and perhaps any Universities that are involved with them as well. At least Reps Price and Graves are showing some fiscal restraint while Senator Chambliss doesn’t seem to have any. These forums should be able to support themselves and with proper management I believe they can. Time to cut spending and using the excuse “well this is only a drop in the bucket–or this is 0.0010% of a 3 trillion budget” just doesn’t get it any more. Cuts should be coming across the board until our budgets are balanced.

Road Scholar

March 31st, 2011
10:09 am

Jim, off topic, there was a meeting Tuesday to discuss the possibility of forming the City of Brookhaven. NO article has been in the AJC reporting the meeting. Why?


March 31st, 2011
10:21 am

I am probably one of the few here who listen to NPR, send MY money to support NPR and would be absolutely fine with the government getting out of the NPR funding business. Then the RNC would actually have to go do their jobs and could not b$tch about NPR being liberal media. If you are not paying for it, you can’t have anything to say about it. What I like about NPR that you find nowhere else in news is this: the mainstream stations will say “Today Vladimir Putin said XYZ…” and give a 2 second soundbite and then give me 3 minutes of their spin on what he said. On NPR they would have Vladimir himself in the radio station in a live interview and you get to hear the whole thing and make up your own mind as to what he is saying. Attacking the 4th estate is just another way that some members of government want to control the people. I am willing to pay to keep this freedom, so Congress, cut away, and then go do your jobs! Saxby, Agent Orange, where are the jobs and the 100 billion in budget cuts?!


March 31st, 2011
10:25 am

really? you people think the news should ONLY come from the biased and corporate-supported outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News? Instead of depth and facts you would rather have “KITTEN STUCK IN TREE!” and “WE DON’T HAVE ALL THE FACTS, SO WE’LL OPINE AND PROBABLY GET IT WRONG JUST SO WE CAN SAY WE WERE FIRST!!”

Get real….some of you “republicans” and “democrats” are downright stupid.

blue dog

March 31st, 2011
10:30 am

Federal and states provide 5.8% of total NPR funding. Individuals provide 32.1% and businesses 21%.
If the Fed’s stop funding, I will increase my contributions to ensure it’s continued viability. Screw these retarded Republicans like Tom Graves who think Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh report the “news”. Ignorance in the mainstream GOP is appalling and dangerous for this country. I watched Hannity on Fox news last night just for a laugh and heard one fat lie about Obama after another…complete distortions of facts non stop. If anyone listens to this garbage exclusively, they would be ready at a moments notice to march with their “brothers in arms” to DC…capture Obama and hang um for treason. There should be widespread outrage by “normal” Americans to this totally racist rhetoric coming from Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and Fox News. Where is they outrage!!! People like good old Senator Tom Graves believes this crap and he is your representative.
Is it any wonder that these GOP’ers want to end an unbaised news source like NPR. You “control one’s information, you control them”.

blue dog

March 31st, 2011
10:42 am


I agree, let them stop funding…we will make up that tiny difference, no problem. then, they can just “shove it”.


March 31st, 2011
10:57 am

NPR (National PUBLIC radio) has always been a partner and complement to our PUBLIC EDUCATION system.
Public education is the cornerstone of an enlightened and internationally competitive society.
I have learned a world of precious information about science, arts, nature, music, education, other cultures, other religions, other philosophies, other universes from listening to NPR.
It is one of the few alternatives available to a corporate controlled talking heads, endlessly devisive and destructive propaganda in the form of “news,” and airheaded infotainment.


March 31st, 2011
12:27 pm

I don’t mind my taxes going for NPR, what I object to is paying the salary and benefits of Reps. Tom Price and Tom Graves. Can we defund them?

North over South

March 31st, 2011
1:54 pm

Why should the government be given Congressmen with Tea Party support or any congresmen benefit from government subsidies.


March 31st, 2011
6:09 pm

It is so funny to see republicans get all up in arms about government funding programs, but as soon as it’s one of THEIR programs, all deals are off. In this case, the possibility of defunding NPR was fine as long as it only got rid of liberal programs, but get rid of the right’s Hannity, Rush, etc., heaven forbid! That’s all this is folks. Let me say this much simpler than the author…”we didn’t mean OUR radio!”

Randolph Phillips

April 1st, 2011
12:55 pm

I have college degrees in English and History, and a former Georgia State Representative (Democrat). My truck radio is set on Georgia Public Radio (WGSP88.1), and it is virtually the only station I listen to. I like much of the programming, and much of it falls within the kind of programming for-profit stations may not wish to carry.

However, I do not think the Government should be funding ideology and propaganda. And I can tell you the culture of NPR is relentlessly liberal in its programming. They are so liberal and insulated from everyday reality, I do not think they realize just how far fout of “middle of the road” and “mainstream” the general atmosphere of at National Public Radio actually is.

This article mentions The Tea Party. The Tea Party movement is a loose grassroots sodality of mostly ordinary people who want a government which adheres to the Constitution, lives within its means, does not overtax our citizens, and wants our borders enforced , and does not want people here illegally to be rewarded with residence. What, pray tell, is wrong with those goals? Most americans, I think, share those views. I am a member of the Columbus, GA. Tea Party.

But NPR radio, from the inception of the Tea Party, has dismissed and ridiculed the movement and given publicity to those who criticize it, call us bigot, and show disdain for our intelligence and motives. NPR may as well be one of Soros’ front organizations in its bias. Indeed, in 2008 NPR was as biased for Obama as the Main Stream Media. The difference is, the MSM is private and has every right to take sides: National Public Broadcasting and NPR are government funded and should be objective in ttheir content and presentation. The Partisanship private media has every right to promote should be absent from media which is government funded. But liberalism is do deeply embedded in the culure of Public TV and Radio that it can’t be ended.

Therefore, we must at least end all taxpayer support for PBS and NPR. They are purveyors of left indeology and views rather than objective media. They will continue without taxpayer support, but at least the taxpayers of this country will not be paying for–and at least indirectly validating–the political, social, and cultural agenda which PBS and NPR promote incessantly.