Last week, National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller took a break from her crusade for a government takeover of the media to swat a fly. With now-former NPR analyst Juan Williams suitably splattered across the evening news after politically incorrect comments he made on Fox News, Schiller can return to her real passion – the creation of a national network to ensure that in the future, you get your news from the government in general and NPR in particular.
Schiller could barely contain her rage at Fox News and at Williams last week, saying he should discuss his fear of boarding a plane with Muslim passengers with “his psychiatrist.” Those who understand what is at stake saw the Williams/Schiller dust up for what it really was – a declaration of war by one of the most powerful women in journalism against for-profit, non-liberal media. If Schiller and her liberal friends have their way, Fox and its viewers will pay the bill for her new government news network.
As Schiller explained in a speech to the NPR board of directors in 2009, it is public radio’s responsibility to fill the gap in journalism left by dying local television stations and newspapers.
Schiller, a former New York Times executive, is one of a few dozen power players working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and a leftist group called Free Press to “reinvent journalism.” That’s how the FTC describes it. The FCC calls what they are doing the “Future of Journalism.” Free Press, a think tank funded by leftist billionaire George Soros, among others, calls it “the new public media.”
It’s all the same thing, a plan to take over local news coverage from for-profit television, radio and print media, which Schiller and her friends claim is in danger of extinction. These “friends” get together regularly with the heads of the FCC and FTC to brainstorm the details in government and congressional meetings. These meetings include the leaders of all the country’s public broadcasting outlets, including PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and American Public Media.
They are beefing up their staffs in local news markets with herds of public news reporters to “take over” coverage as commercial media fails. Nationwide, this will cost $40 billion to $60 billion over a decade, they believe. Their plans, according to the FCC’s Future of Media report, are to raise this money by taxing for-profit news organizations – the ones whose reporting Schiller is supposedly trying to “save.” They want to charge “spectrum fees” of five percent of broadcast station revenues for use of the public spectrum and airwaves, which the government controls. They figure that could bring in $1.8 billion a year. A one percent tax on all electronic devices like cell phones, televisions and laptops could bring in billions more. So would a monthly fee on internet subscriptions.
While conservatives were busy arguing that NPR should be defunded in the wake of the Williams debacle, Schiller was putting the finishing touches on the national infrastructure NPR has launched to deliver this new government news product to cities across the nation. A decade ago, defunding NPR would have sufficed. To stop Schiller now, Republicans would have to defund PBS and CPB as well to have any hope of torpedoing her plans to build a nationwide news delivery system in the style of the BBC, but on steroids. Schiller imagines a national public print, television and radio news leviathan that would compete with the top five news companies in the news industry.
“We can create a national network around all of public radio that provides the kind of public service that is being not provided by other media companies that are suffering,” Schiller told Cyberjournalist.net. Never mind that her planned confiscation of their revenues will cause them more suffering and possibly send them to an early death.
Schiller calls her creation the Public Media Platform, and the left is very excited about it. It’s a digital network in partnership with all the nation’s public news providers, built to distribute their news locally, regionally and nationally. NPR has already built a state-of-the-art internal “wire” service in the style of the Associated Press to carry and distribute the news. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting funded seven multi-million dollar regional journalism centers with news teams to produce and distribute the new public news product.
Finally, NPR’s Project Argo has launched news sites at 12 NPR stations in major cities staffed with local reporters. That’s where Soros’s recent $1.8 million donation to NPR comes in. Those are start-up funds for the reporters to generate the public news product.
A May Free Press report describes NPR’s Public Media Platform as a first step in their plans for a government media takeover. The platform is in the early stages, and its purpose is to attract billions more in government funding. “We are going to strengthen and bolster our representation to Congress and to other entities that can help fund all of us,” Schiller told the NPR board in her 2009 speech about a public media takeover of news reporting.
All of this makes Schiller’s very public drop-kick of Williams far more than a hissy fit that got out of hand. It was a declaration of war against commercial media in general and Fox in particular. Who wins will be determined by what voters do at the ballot box in the coming years.