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March 09, 2011

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Florence Rogers, General Manager, Nevada Public Radio

38 Million Americans listen to local public radio stations. That's a lot of NPR programming, but it's also the music formats such as jazz, classical, blues, folk etc, and importantly, local news programs that serve the needs of communities. That's 38M listeners who don't spend all their time with public radio and have been in the pool of listeners for commercial stations all along. They know what's on the dial and they listen to both. It's dissapointing that the habits of such a large segment of the radio audience seem to be so misunderstood by a trade magazine that covers er . . . radio.

Donna L. Halper

Regarding those who are disputing my comments (which is fine with me), I didn't claim to be neutral. I said when I consult, I don't care about ideology-- I care about good radio, and have trained rightie talkers. The terms "rightie" and "leftie" are just radio slang that I've heard on political talk shows for years, by the way. And other than ad hominem attacks on NPR from ideologues, I am still waiting for the proof that NPR is biased.

Anyhow, it's facile and dishonest to say all right wing talk succeeds on its own-- there are radio owners who support their low-rated conservative talkers because the owners agree with the ideology; I refer to certain radio groups which have successful formats that pay the freight, and they can thus subsidize talkers who get minimal ratings. Also, Limbaugh did not turn a profit for about the first four years he was on the air.

Brent Walker

Eric, when you paint NPR with the words of Ron Schiller (who qualified himself by saying this was his personal opinion) you ARE painting with a broad brush.

The only argument you present against NPR in terms of bias is the argument that you have against this ex-employee, who 1-qualified his remarks as personal to these sleazeballs who set him up, and 2-was subsequently fired. Something you will NOT find happening in conservative talk circles.

You say that these remarks reflect NPR management's attitude about middle America. You would be hard-pressed to back that statement up. That's just sloppy.

Your conflation of one man's remarks in a sting video with the actual reporting quality and attitude of NPR which (once) employed him is the gripe I have with this article. It's neither accurate nor fair.

Eric Rhoads

This raises an IMPORTANT distinction.
My gripe is with NPR not with community radio stations that happen to have affiliations with NPR. Most of these stations are important contributors to the community. I know my station in the Adirondacks is a lifeline for most of the community and provides a valuable service. I do question their ability to survive if they cannot fill their day with NPR programming because of the high cost of being local. We SHOULD support our local stations and find ways for them to survive and thrive. A broad brush should not be used. Sadly NPRs issues will impact many of these, which is the downside.

Marcie Crim

WMMT-FM is a community radio station deep in the coal fields in East KY right on the KY/VA line. We serve about 50 counties in rural KY, Southwest VA, TN, NC, and WV. We are funded through listener support, underwriting, and some other sources if we receive money to produce long-form radio documentaries about Appalachia. We are also funded by CPB. We are NOT an NPR affiliate, the only programming we share with NPR is "Inside Appalachia", a show produced in WV that airs on 6 NPR affiliates in Appalachia, and us.

Without CPB we will go off the air after 25 years. Local residents in one of the poorest parts of the country will become unemployed. 50 volunteers, some here from the very beginning, will lose their opportunity to be on the air. And Central Appalachia will lose a very important local voice.

So, when you write with glee about Congress de-funding NPR, please be aware of what will ACTUALLY be de-funded. Public and Community radio stations (both NPR affiliates and not) around the country serving rural areas, people of color, Native American reservations, and putting local voices on the air in communities that are otherwise only served by Clear Channel.

Almost a month ago there was a diesel fuel spill in our local river, the source of our county's water supply. The city and county waited 2 days to contact residents to notify them of the "no touch" advisory(and then only to residents that had land-line telephones, which is less than half). This is after parents had
bathed their children in the water, given it to them to drink, washed their dishes, gave their pets the water, etc. Without us on the air notifying residents, even more of our community would now be sick from water that could start a truck.

We don't air NPR programming, we tell our listeners when their water is poisoned (which happens more often than you can imagine).

If NPR is de-funded, so are local community stations like ours.
Congress sees them as one and the same under the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Oh, and by the way...I think Ron Schiller is a jackass and an embarrassment. He obviously knows nothing about the stations that use their CPB funding to purchase programming from NPR.

Thanks,
Marcie Crim

Eric Rhoads

Jim
Im not operating off of any rumors and Im a big fan of the programming, though I do see some of that bias strongly at times, the bias I am referring to is the operational bias as revealed by the sting video. I am also not suggesting we make them competitors, I am suggesting we replace them with big operations network driven.

Eric Rhoads

Actually Brent, I do listen to NPR pretty much every day. I enjoy it, though I do think the bias is obvious. I dont mind that. I just dont think the government should fund ANYTHING which leans in either direction. The bias I am referring to primarily is that discovered in the video and my concern that outside funding in exchange for exposure for the voice of others is wrong. I also dont like that they are making claims about a religious bias. Its one thing to say they need more womens voices which I agree with, or miniority, thats ok to... but to say more Muslim voices is promoting a religious bias, which saying that all Christians are insane. If they had said more exposure for middle eastern points of view its a lot different than saying Muslim. One is a culture the other is a religion. Big difference for a PUBLIC funded organization.

Eric Rhoads

Aware Ed is a democrat. I actually believe there are many on the right who quietly wish to see talk radio go away as well.

Brent Walker

Eric, I've always enjoyed your take on the radio industry, but this time you really let your bias and your subsequent ignorance show.

To make the statement that NPR has a left-leaning political stance only shows that you don't listen to NPR. Instead, you allow others to do your thinking for you.

Those of us who do, and who understand what real journalism is, also understand that NPR is one of the last bastions of great journalism--truly balanced journalism. And that is precisely why it should be supported by tax dollars.

When CBS handed the news department over to programming back in '73, broadcast journalism began a long, slow death spiral. NPR wisely picked up the ball and has been running heroically with it ever since. They are not dependent on advertising dollars or ratings, which allows them to maintain their neutrality. I'm happy to fork over my yearly pledge along with the tiny, tiny, miniscule percentage of my tax dollars that go to support the CPB.

This seemingly unstoppable idea that reporting must be leftist if it neither kowtows to Big Business nor aligns with a twisted Murdochian view of the world is ignorance in its purest form.

So turn off Limbaugh for Lent. Stop listening to clowns like Beck and O'Reilley who are only in it for their own fame and fortune. Instead, replace it with a daily listen to Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

If you're really honest with yourself (and with us) you'll have to admit that this is journalism at its best, and deserves all the public support it can get.

Jim Gustafson

Eric, disagree with just about all you have said. The research demonstrates that NPR is the most trusted medium in America. It is true, however, that both NPR and truth are left of Rush,Glen and friends.
If the funding goes away, commercial radio will not benefit, as the stringent copy restrictions for underwriting announcements will be lifted. This will result in a stronger competitor for ad budgets.
I fear you stumble dancing on an open grave. The rumors of NPR's lberal bias and demise are greatly exaggerated.

Walter sabo

NPR is in no danger. If their funds were. Cut from govt their private and citizen donations would still support newsroom staffs FOUR times bigger than 1010 WINS....true. FYI----Ed Schultz is a democrat.

David Citron

Great info, Eric.

Donna's feigned neutrality is sooo transparent, starting with her use of "right-wing" and "liberal" but not "left-wing."

The bottom line, which Donna refuses to understand, is that there is a huge listener demand for conservative talk radio, which shows up at the bottom line. It has been self-supporting and profitable for decades, with no government subsidies.

Liberal talk radio (such as Air America) has proved time and again that it cannot be profitable, except in isolated instances in certain very far leftist markets.

Here's one reason: What business wants to buy a spot on a station which features the anti-business point of view 24/7?

I ask you, why should the left get government subsidies for its unpopular radio format when all other radio must be self supporting?

NPR's whine and cheese pledge drives demonstrate that the leftist point of view is incapable of being self-supporting, because the pay-as-you-go concept is contrary to their entire raison d'être.

Another reason for Air America's demise was NPR. The left had no reason to support liberal commercial talk radio. If leftist content is available for free, sans advertising, on NPR, why listen to those dreadful radio spots for car dealers on AA radio? Why buy a cow when milk is free?

Finally, NPR consistently pimps for big government and then big government rewards it with continued funding: Funding that we cannot afford, in every sense of the word. In any other business that behavior would be considered unethical. Time to cut off NPR and PBS.

I am neither a radio consultant nor affiliated with any station. I am an interested listener and webmaster of the South Florida Radio Pages web site, since 1995.

Matt Hackett

Couldn't agree more. The idea that NPR has a 'left-wing' agenda is ridiculous - unless you mean that presenting genuinely balanced coverage of all stories, and being willing to actually consider the root causes of some of the issues rather than simply ranting and knee-jerking is somehow a liberal concept?

Is this how far we've come? Have buffoons like Glenn Beck (and I choose the word carefully, because that is exactly what he and his ilk are - nothing but clownish entertainers) really twisted our concept of what constitutes journalism so much that truly balanced programming is now considered to have an 'agenda'?

NPR is in NO danger of imminent demise. It is listened to by people on the right and left - people of a wide range of politics who simply want to understand what's actually going on in the world so they can make their own political decisions based on information, not surrealist propaganda.

NPR has over 20 million regular listeners and over the last two years has had its largest increase in listenership in years. It's listeners dwarf those even of Rush Limbaugh. Its programing is admired all over the world.

So, one of its executives got caught in a sting operation revealing a dim view of evangelical Christians; You really think that will come as a shocking revelation? Lots of people, on both the right and left, share the same views of extremists of all types and don't want extreme views anywhere near their news - which is why they'll continue to support and listen to NPR as a welcome antidote to the extremist nutcakes and empty vessels who fill Fox News and most of talk radio.

Boring syndicated radio will slowly die, especially in large markets. Angry talk will continue to make money from the angry 15%. There'll be a massive station sell-off. The total number of stations will fall. Good, independent operators will move in and start investing in solid, local programming in smaller markets when those markets become less cluttered. And through it all, NPR will continue to grow.

Eric Rhoads

Donna:
And I respect and admire you...
At issue is PUBLIC $ funding any political leaning. That should be done by private companies in my opinion.

Smitty

I am SO glad that NPR is imploding. I follow "Defund NPR" on Facebook, and listeners are sick of NPR. I'm really outraged that NPR was allocated tens-of-millions to convert to iBiquity's HD Radio scam, jamming the smaller adjacent-channel stations off the dial, and for bait-and-switching listeners to purchase cheesy HD radios that don't work as claimed. I sure hope iBiquity gets dragged in this mess, eventually. I hope that listeners wise-up and stop donations to NPR!

Donna L. Halper

Wow, Eric, I like and respect you and we go back years, but I must take issue with your right-wing assessment of NPR. Before I go on (and I fully expect to get flamed for my views on this contentious subject), let me state that I have NO horse in this race: as a consultant, I've trained talkers on both sides of the political spectrum, and will continue to put good radio ahead of ideology every time.

But let's be honest. 95% of talk radio is right-wing conservative. Right-wing conservative owners dominate broadcasting-- radio, as well as TV. MSNBC has 3 liberal commentators (their daytime programming is moderate-conservative) but to hear some of my rightie friends, you'd think all TV talk shows are done by liberals. NOT. Ditto for radio-- 95% of the pie isn't enough? I am SO tired of hearing right-wing talking points on station after station. Whatever happened to diverse points of view? Back in the good old days, both sides of the issues were heard, and somehow, the republic did not fall.

Relentlessly, I keep being told that NPR is liberal, the media are liberal, the Fairness Doctrine is coming back any day, be afraid, be very afraid. This is nonsense. The media are not liberal. They are corporate. They support whoever is making them money. I cannot fault them for that. But I defy any of my conservative friends (and yes I have many) to show me the bias they claim is so much a part of NPR. I don't always agree with NPR, but studies have shown that they are pretty fair in their coverage-- in fact, more than 60% of their guests and pundits are Republican; and I find their story selection to be pretty moderate. They rarely present only one side-- and I've seen lots of research that says about 40-45% of their audience is Republican.

So what do you want, Eric? Are you seeking a total right-wing takeover the media? You almost have that now. NPR actually provides some balance, not because they are liberal (they aren't) but because they are not overtly conservative. For that alone they deserve our thanks. But I am utterly mystified at your eagerness to condemn NPR, a network that has broken many important stories over the years and which does not deserve your scorn. When most networks refused to hire women to cover news, NPR gave a number of excellent female reporters a chance. When mainstream radio cut back on foreign coverage, NPR was there, telling the stories that needed to be told. Yeah, NPR has its faults, but I am glad it's around.

Now, you raise an important point: mainstream radio, except for news-talk stations, has ceded news coverage to TV and to NPR. It's definitely time for radio to get back into the business of covering news. But you'll win me over to your side a lot faster with that argument than with demonizing NPR and accusing them of bias. The bias is with James O'Keefe and his heavily edited videos, or some of the right-wing talkers who distort the facts for political gain. (I know, sometimes leftie talkers distort facts too, but there's more of the righties, so they have a much bigger microphone and can really influence public opinion.)

So, why can't we agree that NPR isn't the enemy? Boring, syndicated, voice-tracked radio is the enemy. And both Republicans and Democrats should want to see THAT remedied.

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