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Commentary

Who should pay for public radio?

Tucker Carlson Apr 17, 2012
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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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