CPB CEO responds to questions from Ted Cruz about NPR funding

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Pat Harrison

CPB CEO Patricia Harrison responded Thursday to another letter from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who had sought answers about CPB’s oversight and funding of NPR.

Cruz wrote Harrison April 25 to “express deep concern about National Public Radio’s (NPR) departure from its stated mission.” The senator said that “recent developments reveal a deeply entrenched culture of political bias and partisanship” at the network, pointing to the essay published in The Free Press by former editor Uri Berliner.

Cruz also criticized NPR CEO Katherine Maher, calling her “an angry, Left-wing radical” and citing statements she had made on social media before joining NPR.

“By continuing to allocate funding to NPR, the CPB is complicit in perpetuating political bias and misinforming the American public at taxpayer expense,” he wrote.

Cruz asked CPB to “justify continued funding for NPR” despite what he called “a deep-seated culture of partisanship that contradicts the requirement for balanced and fair reporting.”

Since December, Cruz has also sent letters to Harrison asking about the diversity requirements of CPB’s Community Service Grant program and the availability of audio recordings from CPB board meetings. 

In her response, Harrison cited the Public Broadcasting Act’s requirements that CPB “facilitate the full development of public telecommunications” while also giving public broadcasters “maximum protection from extraneous interference and control.” 

“Public radio stations provide an invaluable service to our nation,” she 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.” 

She added that about 250 public radio licensees —roughly two-thirds of the public radio system — choose to be NPR member stations and explained the funding of stations through the CSG program. 

“The majority of CPB’s direct funding of NPR, as required by law, is predominantly paid from federal appropriations for interconnection facilities and operations, and not for programming,” she wrote.

Cruz had also asked how CPB audits NPR’s “adherence to the standards expected of a recipient of federal funding.” Harrison said CPB annually audits recipients of CSGs and other CPB grants, in accordance with Communications Act funding requirements. She added that in the Communications Act and the Public Telecommunications Act, “the objectivity and balance mandate is a CPB responsibility” and that CPB “requires compliance” in the “few content grant agreements” with NPR. 

CPB will “continue to comply” with the Public Broadcasting Act and Public Telecommunications Act requirements “by supporting an independent periodic review of the objectivity and balance mandate in concert with our statutory obligation to maintain a firewall of editorial independence,” Harrison said. The corporation will also continue to review national programs that it directly funds “for their accuracy, fairness, objectivity, and balance,” she said. 

Cruz also asked Harrison how much funding local stations “direct to CPB.” 

“None,” Harrison responded. “… If, however, [you] intended to ask what portion of those grants the stations paid to NPR rather than to CPB, CPB does not track those expenditures of CSG funds.”

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

Since Berliner’s essay was published, Republicans in Congress have used his claims of political bias to attempt to discredit NPR as left-wing propaganda and call for its defunding. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) introduced legislation last month to defund NPR. This week, House Republicans held a hearing to investigate alleged bias at the network.

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