The National Trust is thriving today. It has undertaken major projects, like a splendid restoration of James Madison's home, Montpelier. It publishes a first-rate magazine. It has developed a large constituency of contributors (I give a few bucks every year) who appreciate its work. It does not have to do the bidding of political masters.
NPR today has a much larger constituency than the National Trust had 16 years ago and much less dependence on federal support. It has a news product of great distinctiveness and, many believe, high quality. It has millions of loyal followers, many of them already contributors.
Much if not all of NPR's programming already attracts thinly (and irritatingly) disguised advertising. I'm sure the NPR demographic is one many other advertisers would like to target.
At the same time, the case for government support of public broadcasting is far weaker than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, when there was far less variety in broadcasting and more reason to doubt that public radio could come up with a commercially viable product.
"It is very clear that in the long run we would be better off without federal funding," Ron Schiller told the pretend Muslims in the sting video.
"I just think and believe and totally expect that they can survive in the private market," says Rep. Doug Lamborn, who is leading the move to defund NPR in the House.
When you have both sides in such agreement, it's obviously time to make a deal. The Schillers' hamhandedness has made defunding likely. NPR and CPB have a window of opportunity to shape the terms and conditions of defunding. If they have any doubts, they should call Dick Moe.