22 Oct 2010 12:00 am   //   Filed under: In the news, Media, Stray data

Chart: How much tax money do we spend on NPR, anyway?

Every few years, it becomes smart politics to attack public broadcasting and call for Congress to stop funding it. This week, following the Juan Williams debacle and just a few weeks before the midterm elections, National Public Radio is taking an especially hard beating from the right.

  • Mike Huckabee: “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left…. It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR.”
  • Sarah Palin: “If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for ‘National Public Radio’ to become ‘National Private Radio.'”
  • Some dude on Huffington: “It’s clear that NPR would rather play consistently to the left than reach a balanced audience. And for that, they deserve to be pushed away from the public trough.”

I’ve never been a big fan of using tax money to support media programming; its too close to the state-run media in countries with less freedom of speech. But the truth is, in the U.S., public radio hardly gets any tax money. NPR gets no tax money directly. Most of NPR’s revenue comes from private donations. Federal money is funneled through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which doles out grants to local stations, which can use it to pay their NPR dues. How much did the CPB budget for radio this year? $90.5 million. That’s nothing.

I’ve become interested in data visualization, so just for fun, here’s a quick and dirty chart illustrating the amount of tax money spent on public radio compared to a few other choice areas. I threw News Corp’s annual revenues in for good measure. All numbers (except the TARP spending) are from FY 2010.

Sources: 2010 Federal Budget, ProPublica, News Corp. financials, 2010 Federal HHS Budget, Taxpayers for Common Sense, CPB.

Another thought: Fox News has been advancing the narrative that Congress should investigate and defund NPR, with Bill O’Reilly and other commentators framing the federal funding of NPR as tilting the playing field against private broadcasters. So here’s another piece of math if you want it: Federal spending on public radio is less than 0.28% of News Corp’s annual revenue.