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Who should pay for public radio?

How do you think public media should be funded? Commentator Tucker Carlson says cut federal funding and let the listeners pitch in.

Curious to see exactly how public media gets its funding? View the infographic

One of the on-again off-again debates in Washington is who ought to pay for public broadcasting: The government, which helps support hundreds of public radio stations across the country, or us, listeners, who give millions of dollars every year that help shows like this one get on the air.

Commentator Tucker Carlson says listeners could -- and should -- pay more.


Tucker Carlson: I love public radio. I listen to it every day. But sometimes, as I drive to my white-collar job in my expensive foreign car, surrounded by fellow public radio listeners driving to their white-collar jobs in their expensive foreign cars, I feel a little guilty. All of us are pretty affluent, I think to myself. Do we really need a federal subsidy?

I live in Washington, D.C., but the scene would be familiar to anyone who lives in Winnetka, Ill., the North Shore of Boston or the westside of L.A.: In general, the richer the zip code, the more people tune into public radio. Public radio listeners tend to have a household income more than $30,000 above the national average. They're also whiter, better educated and more than twice as likely as ordinary Americans to work in top management. Not the profile of your average welfare recipient.

Yet that's in effect what we are. Public radio receives more than $100 million a year in tax dollars. Teenaged shift workers at McDonald's, every harried single moms emptying wastebaskets at a law firm, lettuce pickers in California are laboring so that you and I -- you in your Prius, me in my Saab -- can listen to a certain sort of educated news and opinion as we cruise in air conditioned comfort to the office each day. Has there ever been a more unfair tax?

Every few years somebody in Congress tries to kill it. Public radio executives never quite defend their subsidy -- that would be impossible to do with a straight face -- but instead they respond by pointing out that lots of people really, really like public radio. That's true. Of course you could say the same thing about the Rush Limbaugh Show. And that's the point: When people like something, they'll pay for it. Public radio listeners could certainly pay the whole tab for public radio. They just don't want to. Maybe, just to be decent, we should start.


Tucker Carlson is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller and a member of Maine Public Broadcasting.

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About the author

Tucker Carlson is a 20-year veteran of print and broadcast media and co-founder of The Daily Caller, a 24-hour news and commentary website.

Curious to see exactly how public media gets its funding? View the infographic

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How elitist can one person get! I'm not white or rich but listen and love and, when I could, supported public radio. If only the rich supported public radio then soon it would voice only what they wanted to hear. Anyone can turn on and listen, everyone should support!

Here here! Tucker Carlson is a hack. He should go to work for Fox news, where his poorly written and illogical conclusions would be welcome.

1. I love you folks! 2. Speaking as one of the people who seem to be defined by their work station in life, I am a bit offended. (I make about 30K/yr in customer service.) Demographic averages are different than individuals. 3. Thanks, in general, for all the good work you do.

fuck Tucker Carlson with a bow tie.
As a college student with a part time job repairing computers with very limited income I donate about five dollars a year to my local station because that's all I can spare.
I listen to NPR and I feel that it makes me a more educated and informed citizen, if anything public radio should be mandatory listening in order to have a intelligent voting population.

Tucker Carlson is a second rate troll who got his ass handed to him by Jon Stewart

I like that NPR is subsidized because it means that the low-income folks (like me) mentioned in the commentary can listen to the excellent programming without paying out of pocket while still having a stake in the continuation of the service. I pay taxes that support a lot of stuff (and a lot of better paid, white collar people) that I don't like so it's nice that there are some things that are tax supported that I do like. Public radio is number one on that list.

Tucker show his ignorance when he claims that all listeners come from affluence. Yes, many listeners are college educated, but that doesn't mean they are anywhere remotely in the same privileged position that Tucker so luckily enjoys. Shame on him for assuming that everyone who listens to Public Radio drives a Saab and earnes six-figures.

I am a Professor who makes less than $50K a year. I encourage all of my community college students to listen to public radio--many do. I venture to say they don't drive a Saab either.

Shame on the producers of Market Place for allowing someone to categorize the public in the same manner as Rush Limbaough.

What a terrific idea! As I listened to Carlson's essay while exiting the Whole Foods parking lot in my Prius (really) I thought, sure, I should pay a bit more for public radio, even if I did have to close down my business this year due to the combination of the Bush recession and the refusal of almost all banks to loan to any small business. I now have no income and no savings, but still, the concept of abolishing such an unfair tax subsidy is good!

In fact, let's take it as a model for our entire government subsidy system! Let's kill the subsidies we give to *everyone* that can otherwise afford supporting themselves. Let's start with oil, that'll save us at least $4B a year, and then we can eliminate all government support for banks. We can kill the subsidies that GE and Walmart get. We can kill all the illogical support we give ethanol producers. The list is long, but contains our largest businesses, our most important industries, all getting rather fat off our taxes.

Fair is fair, right? If the recipient can afford to go it alone, they certainly shouldn't be getting subsidized, should they?

When we cut Big Oil off, then let's talk about public radio.

I can make the case for why we should all pay for public radio - it's the word "public." If Mr. Carlson loves public radio, like I do, he knows it is an important source for quality information and entertainment. These days, when commercial media seems to be in the pocket of its sponsors, public radio is more important than ever. I am glad to support public radio, but if I couldn't, I know I would be able to tune in and listen for free. You can't do that with HBO. Because I can afford to support public radio with the tiniest fraction of a penny per each dollar of taxes I pay, plus giving during pledge drives, I'm making it possible for those who cannot afford to support public radio (and those freeloaders who listen and could support but don't) to listen, too. That's how the common good works. My husband and I weren't lucky enough to have children, but we pay taxes that support public schools because it's good for the community and good for the country. Maybe I don't have to go to the emergency room of our overcrowded public hospital for health care, but I pay taxes to keep it open so my less fortunate fellow citizens can get some help when they need it. That's how you keep a country of over 300 million people going - we're supposed to be helping each other. Maybe I'll need help some day. If we all thought of each other a little more and ourselves a little less, we'll be the kind of country we aspire to be, not Ayn Rand-land.

Just brilliant Madcrouch! If only you had the exposure Mr. Carlson enjoys. Thank you for such articulate and concise wisdom. Oh, and people, let's refute Mr. Carlson, but let's be accurate. He didn't say only rich people listen to NPR or that everyone who listens is rich and educated. He's going to shrug off all our indignation but at least he won't be able to accuse us of misrepresenting what he actually said.

Thank you, madcrouch. Just what I think too. What happened to the idea of "one for all and all for one?" Why did we fight the war between the states if not to become ONE country, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all? Well said.

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