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Democrats on Capitol Hill also rushed to NPR’s defense.

“As traditional news outlets lay off reporters and offer less coverage of important topics, public broadcasting is filling the gap, bringing critical news and information to communities across the country,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat and founder of the bipartisan Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, who stresses that NPR is not “the most important part” of the public broadcasting debate.

“What’s more, public broadcasting stations are the only source of free programming that educates our children rather than the many commercial stations simply trying to sell them products,” Mr. Blumenauer said.

But NPR’s critics say that, in addition to its political biases, public radio and television are only duplicating programming that is being produced — without taxpayer subsidies — in the private sector.

With a skyrocketing deficit and a multitude of radio, TV and other media outlets that ‘do for the people’ the same thing that NPR does, the question is no longer just whether we can afford federally funded broadcast entities. The question is whether we need them. In both cases, the answer is no,” said Lou Zickar, editor of the conservative Ripon Forum.

Media Research Center director Brent Bozell, who has tracked what he says is the liberal bias at NPR for years, remains adamant against funding the public broadcaster.

“It has been 44 years since Congress established the public broadcasting system, and the dramatic revolution in information technology makes the scarcity argument of the 1967 act utterly obsolete. Congress’s requirement for fairness in public broadcasting has been disregarded since the system’s very first days,” Mr. Bozell wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“The resignation of Vivian Schiller doesn’t change a thing about NPR. They are still a radical left-wing toy for the likes of [billionaire investor and liberal philanthropist] George Soros, and they still don’t deserve a dime of taxpayer funding,” he said.

The resignation of Mrs. Schiller caps what has been a rough financial period for NPR.

The broadcaster has encountered a welter of financial challenges, despite receiving a $200 million gift in 2003 from Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Within five years, NPR had canceled two major shows and fired 7 percent of its staff to make up for a $23 million hole in its budget as the recession loomed — a situation common to many traditional print and broadcast news organizations, as well as their hybrid electronic kin.

Significant personnel changes were made at the highest levels: Mrs. Schiller arrived that year from the New York Times, where she served as chief of online operations. She was determined to expand NPR’s online footprint and influence, only to be called in as referee after Ellen Weiss, then the senior vice president for news, fired analyst Juan Williams last year for comments he made on Fox News about Muslims. After an internal investigation, Ms. Weiss resigned in January.

NPR management has launched a national search for Mrs. Schiller’s replacement. Joyce Slocum, the organization’s senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, has been named interim CEO.