The Intolerance of Public Radio

by Paul Greenberg

Federal and state taxpayer money may support public radio, but that doesn’t mean individual public radio donors think they should have to suffer through conservative opinions. So popular commentator and syndicated columnist Paul Greenberg learned recently in Little Rock when a local NPR affiliate dropped his conservative commentary but kept his liberal counterpart on the air.

Earlier this week Greenberg went public with the details of his suppression. Greenberg is also the editorial page editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a syndicated columnist. Following is an excerpt from his Sunday, February 25 piece in his newspaper:

Censorship is one of those subjects journalists love to fulminate against, in part because it so directly threatens what we're about, and also because it's the hallmark of societies at a safe remove — like the old Soviet Union or the “People's Republic” of China.

But it's a little different when opinions are stifled right here at home. Especially when you're the one being stifled….

Here's how it happened to me: A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Ron Breeding at KUAR, the public radio station that broadcasts from the UALR campus….Ron had called to ask if I'd like to do a brief commentary on the news once a week….

Actually, Ron explained, the station wasn't interested just in my dulcet tones. It was looking for a conservative counterpoint to its liberal commentary. Duty called. “Sure,” I said. I proceeded to do a couple of three-minute radio essays, and enjoyed them, ham that I yam. I also enjoyed the usual responses: the raves from fans, the nasty e-mails from critics. I thought that's why I was picked: to interest listeners and get them thinking, even responding.

Then I got the phone call. My services would no longer be needed. Maybe they'd call me later, when a different format was devised that would include various viewpoints from the community. Hmmm. Would the liberal commentator continue weekly? Yes. So much for conservative counterpoint.

So much for balance.

It seems that the station had got some complaints — not about my style or language or delivery — but my political opinions. So it had decided to drop me, at least for now. “It wasn't my idea,” said Ron Breeding. He just got to break the news to me, lucky fellow.

So I called Ben Fry, the station manager, though I already had a pretty good idea which of my commentaries had brought the politically correct out in force. Was it my discussion of ethics at this session of the Ledge, including the ethics of abortion? Yes, Ben said. And who called to complain — contributors? “They're all contributors,” said Ben. Well, were they big, rich backers? He hesitated. Would it be fair, I asked, to describe them as prominent? “Yes,” he said. And he'd caved. His defense: “What do you expect me to do, Paul?”

Well, Ben, I expected you to show a little courage. Because without courage, neither journalism nor freedom itself will prove a going concern for long.

I also wondered how Ben would justify this squalid little cave-in to students at UALR. I'd love to be there when he does. It'd be a kick to hear him explain how public radio promotes the free exchange of ideas, or just listen to him dilate on the importance of freedom of expression on a university campus….

On a national level, NPR — or as we aficionados call it, National Propaganda Radio — is well known for its ideological bias. But I had no idea the rot had spread so far down….

My first broadcast had drawn fire, too, Ben Fry told me. Which isn't surprising. In that little essay, I'd pointed out some of the problems with the hate-crime bill being debated at the Ledge. (I wonder if some of the criticism was hateful.)

Now I'd compounded that thought crime by saying something critical about abortion — the one subject beyond respectable criticism in our enlightened times, a.k.a. the Culture of Death. That's what tore it, of course. If there's anything advocates of Choice can't tolerate, it's a choice of opinions.

It's all been enough to make me grateful, again, that I work for a publisher who has never told me what to say or what not to say in this column….

As for those whose only response to any opinion different from their own is to censor it, they don't understand. They don't understand that the surest way to protect their own freedom of opinion is to assure that others are free to express theirs.

But the defining weakness of modern, conventional “liberalism” is a fear of ideas, and rather than confront and debate conservative ideas, the instant reaction is: Suppress them. Dilute them. Get them off the air, or at least limit the people's exposure to them, lest the masses be led astray and grow restless.

As for the fearful types who yield to pressure, and let themselves be intimidated, they are the natural accomplices of our new Thought Police. Boy, it's good to get that gag out of my mouth.

For Monday's Media and Culture Update, click here .

(This report courtesy of the Media Research Center.)

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