Accuracy in Media

AIM is pleased that the Inspector General of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has announced an investigation into how public broadcasting may have engaged in illegal lobbying against a proposed cut in federal funding of public TV and radio. We had urged such a probe last June and 18 Republican lawmakers, led by Representative Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, made the official request in August. They also asked the Justice Department to take a look.

A Bloomberg news story about this development quoted John Lawson, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, as saying, “This is old-fashioned political intimidation. The congressmen that requested this want to shut us up.”

In fact, the members of Congress are concerned about violations of law. 31USC, Section 1352 prohibits the use of federal funds to engage in lobbying activities. The law is clear.  It says that you may not use federal funds to influence or attempt to influence any member of the Executive or Legislative branches of government for the purpose of securing a grant or contract. Yet federally-funded public broadcasting succeeded in scaring Congress into thinking that Big Bird and Clifford the Big Red Dog were at risk because of the proposed cut.

If anyone is guilty of political intimidation, it’s the federally-funded public TV and radio stations. Whether the activity was illegal or not depends on how public TV and radio stations maintain their books.

If they manage to escape serious scrutiny and accountability, it will be because they have kept monies segregated, at least on paper. That’s pretty easy to do.

But make no mistake: federal funding indirectly at least enables these stations to continue to lobby for more taxpayer dollars. And that is the ultimate outrage that must be ended.

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