- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republicans on Thursday took another swipe at taxpayer support for public broadcasting with legislation to bar federal funding of National Public Radio and prohibit local public stations from using federal money to pay NPR dues.

Democrats generally criticized what they saw as an effort by the GOP to punish NPR for what conservatives say is its liberal bias. Republicans say NPR is fully capable of standing on its own without federal dollars.

Last month the Republican majority pushed through budget cuts for the remainder of this budget year that included taking back some $86 million budgeted for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent organization of NPR.

Conservative antagonism toward NPR escalated last week after an NPR executive was caught on tape deriding the tea party movement. Both the executive and NPR’s president resigned after the incident.

The legislation headed for a vote Thursday would ban federal funding of NPR, which was about $5 million in fiscal year 2010. It would bar public radio stations from using their federal grant money to pay dues to NPR. That total was about $2.8 million in fiscal 2010.

It also would bar public radio stations from using federal funds to buy NPR programs such as “All Things Considered,” “Car Talk” or “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.” NPR received $56 million in programming fees last year, its largest single source of revenue.

In fiscal years 2009 and 2010 the CPB distributed federal grant money to more than 600 public radio stations, and they used that money to buy programs and pay dues to NPR.

The White House strongly opposed the legislation, saying in a statement that “undercutting funding for these radio stations, notably ones in rural areas where such outlets are already scarce, would result in communities losing valuable programming, and some stations could be forced to shut down altogether.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Doug Lamborn of Colorado, said he enjoyed much of NPR programming but “I believe that they can survive, even thrive, in the free market without the crutch of government subsidies.”

But Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. said the bill was a “political stunt” that would put “rural communities at a major disadvantage in the information age.” In many cases, public stations in rural and minority communities receive a higher percentage of their funds from the CPB.

The legislation next would go to the Senate, where it likely faces opposition from the Democratic majority.

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