Sen. Ted Cruz Comes After Corporation For Public Broadcasting, And CPB’s President Responds

Corporation for Public Broadcasting President and CEO Patricia de Stacy Harrison has responded to a letter from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) questioning its funneling of taxpayer dollars to National Public Radio.

In an April 25 letter, Cruz sought answers about whether CPB has done anything to address NPR’s alleged bias. “NPR markets itself as a longstanding beacon of independent journalism, which is a critical component in fostering an informed and engaged public,” Cruz wrote. “Yet recent developments reveal a deeply entrenched culture of political bias and partisanship that stands directly at odds with the purported mission of this taxpayer-funded media organization.”

The allegations followed April’s resignation of Uri Berliner, a now-former Senior News Editor who was initially suspended after unleashing a scathing critique of his longtime employer in an op-ed published by The Free Press. It led Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) to introduce a bill that would prohibit taxpayer dollars from going to NPR. Tenney said the network’s “overwhelming partisan bias” warrants the end of federal funding.

In her response, Harrison cited the Public Broadcasting Act’s requirement that CPB facilitate the development of “high quality” programming from “diverse sources” while giving public broadcasters “maximum protection” from extraneous interference and control.

“Public radio stations provide an invaluable service to our nation,” Harrison wrote. “Millions of Americans depend on their local public radio station for fact-based journalism about their world, country, and community. This is especially true for those who live in rural and remote areas, where the stations often serve as the primary, if not sole, source of news.”

Because CPB provides funding to public radio, Cruz says it is obligated to provide balanced news coverage. He asked the corporation that gets federal funding and then passes it on to public broadcasters to justify its continued NPR funding.

Harrison noted that roughly 250 public radio licensees – or about two-thirds of the public radio system – choose to be NPR member stations. Explaining how NPR is funded, Harrison said the majority of the network’s funding “comes from federal appropriations for interconnection facilities and operations, and not for programming.” In addition, CPB distributes 23% of the funds it receives directly to public radio stations “solely to be used for acquiring or producing programming that is to be distributed nationally and is designed to serve the needs of a national audience.” Another 7% of the funds are designated for public radio to produce other programming, she added.

Cruz is also seeking information about whether CPB has audited NPR and what it would take to get it to increase its audit capacities. Harrison explained that CPB annually audits recipients’ compliance with Communications Act funding requirements and that “the objectivity and balance mandate is a CPB responsibility.”

And she vowed that CPB will continue to comply with the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and the Public Telecommunications Act of 1992 with an independent periodic review “of the objectivity and balance mandate in concert with our statutory obligation to maintain a firewall of editorial independence.” In addition she pledged that CPB will continue to review national public media programs funded directly by CPB “for their accuracy, fairness, objectivity, and balance.”

She added that CPB will consult with national public media organizations and local stations “to ensure public media continues to be trusted by the American people.”

Harrison’s May 9 response to Cruz came in the same week that a House committee held a hearing on allegations of bias at NPR. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) unleashed an array of criticisms in her opening remarks.

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