9/28/2012

Why I Don't Give Money to NPR

First, I have friends who work for Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and they are wonderful people who are doing the right thing for the right reason. They aren't the problem, they work for the problem. If public radio's mismanagement somehow managed to shoot the organization in the foot, that foot became infected, and the institution died, my friends would miss the jobs they had, the mission they thought they were serving, and the community they tried to serve would be lessened by their loss. I once worked for Guidant Corporation. Many people working inside many giant disorganizations have higher goals, a sense of mission, hopes to be providing value and, even, saving lives with the company's products. Having been in meetings with the Guidant executives and hearing their concerns, I know the company's employees who had morals and values would have been disappointed to learn that their mismanagers are rarely more sophisticated or motivated any differently than other white collar criminals. Like most white collar criminals, they got away with a fortune and no responsibility for the wreckage they left behind. Law enforcement doesn't have the skills, the funding, or the interest in pursuing corporate criminals unless they screw up and steal from the 1%.The fact is, good people often work for for evil people because they (the good people) are incredible optimists and hope for the best in face of all evidence.

When my kids were young, 35 years ago, we listened to Nebraska Public Radio a lot. They grew up listening to great BBC and US radio programs like the Monty Python Show, Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Zero Hour, Le Show, Earplay, NPR Playhouse, A Prairie Home Companion, and rebroadcasts of old US radio dramas like Johnny Dollar and Suspense. We didn't have a television in the house and NPR was important to our household for all of our electronic media entertainment, news, and just to pass the time. College interns who worked in my lab learned to talk Hitchhiker's Guide dialog to communicate. We ran the program every day and there was damn little conversation in the lab while the show was on. When the local station reran the Pythons, we had listening parties where most of the party'ers could quote the lines; accent intact. From 1973 to 2000, I was a reliable contributor to my local Public Radio stations; from Lincoln, Nebraska to Santa Monica, California, to Denver, Colorado, to St. Paul, Minnesota. Even when we didn't have much money, we always found a couple hundred dollars to give to our local stations.

The 90's were the beginning of the end for NPR. Along with the phony morals outrage about Clinton's blow jobs, the Repuglicans were hammering at the "liberal bias" of public media, doing everything they could to eliminate any public funding on media not firmly on their side. To Repuglicans, "liberal" means anything reality-based. Federal funding dropped and, to make up for the loss of revenue, National Public Radio began to take on corporate advertising, disguised as "sponsorships." Those sponsorships and the fear NPR's mismanagement had that their oversized salaries might be impacted by even less federal investment in public information have shifted the information we get dramatically. (Yes, I know their annual salaries are barely a week's coffee allowance for Rush, Beck, and the MSM regular talking heads. But I don't listen to those idiots at all, ever.) My first strong impression of Minnesota Public radio's (MPR) shift was when Jesse Ventura was running for Minnesota Governor. Ventura was "allowed" about one word out of ten, compared to his Democratic and Repuglican opponents. Four years later, the candidate Ventura recommended for his replacement, Tim Penny, wasn't even allowed to participate in the MPR debates. It was obvious that MPR belonged to the two parties and the state's corporations and my interest in "local radio" has declined in direct proportion to local radio's disinterest in local communities. The bigger the public radio organization becomes, the less connected to the local community they are.

For years, I have used Public Radio as my wake-up alarm. For the last ten years, that has mostly served to get me out of bed pissed off. In the 2006-2007 period, hearing NPR's "financial experts" jabber about how our failing, phoney economy was in great shape because home ownership was at an all-time high did that job. This year, the non-stop conservative commentary and propaganda is putting on the finishing touches. A few days ago, I woke up to what was purported to be a random selection of uncommitted voters in Ohio. What they interviewed were several die-hard Romney idiots, including one bimbo who was voting for Romney because Ryan "is cute." If that's the most non-committed NPR can get, they might as well become a Faux News subsidiary.

And that is why I can ignore NPR's constant begging for money without a blip on my conscience. I know a pile of crap when I hear it. I know that Minnesota Public Radio has enough money to acquire every available small radio station several states through its American Public Radio subsidiary. I know that I miss the real "public radio," the radio stations that were closely connected to local communities and gave us a load of local information with a little national BS and even more international news; lots of BBC, some CBC, and I felt closer to my community because of it. I don't get that from the conglomerates that NPR, APR, and MPR have become. I miss public radio, though.

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