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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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Holy cats! I make less than $35k, drive a 19 year old Volvo, take public transportation to work, and have been a faithful listener to NPR/public radio for over 35 years. Clearly not the same demographic as Mr. Carlson. And I'm not complaining. But that's not the point. The point is: in a democracy it is our responsibility to ensure that our citizens are educated and well-informed. Public libraries, public schools, and public broadcasting fulfill that promise. I'm happy to pay taxes to support those institutions, and am proud to be a sustaining member of both my local public radio and television station. It's an investment in my democracy. I suspect that most public broadcast listeners and viewers are familiar with the concept of the "commonwealth." You, Mr. Carlson, apparently are not.

I, too, am offended by Tucker Carlson's assertions that only rich, upper-management white-collar, ultra-white elitist snobs listen to and support Public Radio. If his views are shared by the producers of Public Radio, that just might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hmm...did I hear a disclaimer that his views are his own and not that of Public Radio?

Perhaps tucker should get his facts straight first before accusing the federal government of levying a tax on the populace for public radio.

Public Radio is sponsored by corporate donors, the national endowment for the arts, and by charitable contributions BY LISTENERS LIKE ME! Why do you think my local radio station asks me for a donation every 3 months or so? Because contributions from the government are not enough.

So way to go, you insulted people by their income, race, and by the fact that some of us actually pay for this content.

I found this Op-Ed by Tucker Carlson so racist and insulting. I am a US Citizen Venezuelan-American and I've been living here in the US for almost 20 years. Yes, I do have a college degree and I live in NJ Monmouth County which is part of the greater New York City metro area but to say that the only people who listen to Public Radio are wealthy white people is so racist. I am of Latin/Hispanic heritage and I happen to only listen o Public Radio and also to watch every evening the TV News on PBS. It's no surprise Tucker Carlson is no longer working for CNN or MSNBC.

Isn't Tucker one of those conservative blowhards who complain that 51 percent of Americans don't pay any federal income taxes? Well, Tucker most of that 51 percent are the guys flipping burgers, the moms emptying wastebaskets and the folks picking lettuce. So they aren't the ones paying for public radio. Of course, neither are the 1400 American millionaires who also don't pay any federal income taxes. I'll gladly pay more for public radio when you and the rest of your whiny conservative friends pick up the tab for the two wars you started at the same time you voted yourselves a pass on fiscal responsibility.

The US government can do a lot worse than spend some tax money on high quality programing available to all citizens free of charge. In addition, getting Government funding for NPR when I pay my taxes is the same as getting a tote bag when I donate to NPR.

I was convinced by Mr. Carlson's arguments so I began to think about how to collect those funds from the wealthy. Perhaps they could be taxed at a higher rate and the government could turn over a small portion of that to public radio (and television). Those who value the service and are so inclined could add a voluntary contribution. This was beginning to sound familiar.

Hmmm, I think Tucker's comments fail to understand the paraphrase of the philosopher Kurt Godel: " All generalizations, with the possible exception of this one, are false."
I'm 66, live on a farm and drive a F150. We're so far out in the boonies we have to stream NPR over the Internet - yep, we've got the Internet here, and NPR is the only radio we listen to.
Perhaps he's unaware that NPR is the only growing radio presence, as Clear Channel and other big companies plus the "angry old white men" on talk radio have ruined most of the rest of radio.
And he's not well versed in capitalism, or he would understand that Rush and the rest have sponsors filling the time with inane ads, until they piss them off and they stop paying.
As for unfair taxes, others have covered that well.
Remember NPR's total tax subsidy is only 5 times Mitt Romney's income...
Perhaps we should force him to listen to commercial radio for a week, and see if he changes his mind.

Tucker has been of the few commentors that I have enjoyed and agree with most of the time. This comment is the exception to my own rule. Tucker you are just plain wrong in your evaluation of the "listener" base of public radio. I reside in Fincastle, VA, I'm 75 years old and drive about 20 miles to work, one way, Monday through Friday and tune in public radio on my vehicle and in my office for the peace, harmony, entertainment and fairly accurate news reporting without all the commercials, foolishness, unintelligible words to loud clanging and banging and B. S. of the "big" networks. On the weekends I sit on my back porch overlooking the village, my fish ponds, the mountains, cows, my faithful Lab Maggie by my side, while I sip an adult beverage and I thank God for my life which includes listening to Garrison, Thistle and Shamrock, local "jazz" and/or music from the Blue Ridge. The funding by the federal government is about the only funding I agree with in these unstable times and I am happy to make my voluntary contribution within my limits to sustain public broadcasting. Leave it alone. Linnie Gregory

My goodness! I didn't realize I was too poor to listen to public radio! I don't own a home, I do drive a foreign car, but it's hardly a luxury car, I don't make $30K more than most people--I barely make $30K! So I guess I'll cancel my membership in my local station and start listening to something else.

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