For the same reason I do not donate to CNN.
Last Saturday I was helping with the mural going up on our building. By help I mean that I painted the door and window trims a uniform color that goes with the rest of the building. All the real mural painting was being done by a real artist.
She was plugged into her iSomething and I was using an archaic device called a ‘radio’. It was tuned to KQED and as my hands were touched with paint, it stayed tuned to KQED and I had a chance to listen to every word of the pledge drive. I was reminded of the all reasons I stopped donating to KQED years ago.
First and foremost please be clear that KQED is NOT non-commercial media. The very structure of NPR leaves the stations and most of the shows on the auction block raising funds from the private sector. It is done through foundations, it is done through sponsorships and it is done via paid commercial advertising. I know because I listen all the time.
Yes, I listen and I do not pay and I do not think I or any other common citizen should put their money there.
Like who are we kidding with this non-commercial claim? The top and bottom of every show gives thanks to their sponsors. They give their names. It is the same moneyed interests that are all over the corporate media. It is part of the corporate media and the Corporation For Public Broadcasting is not a different use of the word. So General Electric or Archer Daniels Midland support a show. Whose influence is bigger? Them paying for 20% of the bill, or Donald Macleay sending in my $40? Do you think if I called the station with a concern they would give me the same kind of attention as the IT company so interested in public broadcasting that they tell you about it along with their bogus backup solution at every traffic report?
So when you donate, you are donating to a system that is beholden to big money, not independent of it, and not in any way non-commercial. Sort of like a fun way to get you to help millionaires have even more media influence, this time inside the system that is supposedly for the public.
And the reporting is all that different? The long line of government insiders, media pundits and corporate movers and shakers they have on the air shows that there is NO left bias on NPR. What you get is the high brow version of the same thing we get elsewhere.
The rest of the media is so shallow, trite and skimpy on any real news that it does make NPR look good in comparison. But that is only in comparison. In the US, the truth is that we have shitty news.
Today we are hearing it about Syria, but every day we hear it on all kinds of issues from Israeli terrorists who live in the West Bank, who we do not call terrorists, to our urban minorities who we blame for their own poverty. The same bias and taboos exist on NPR as anywhere else.
Does NPR live up to that promise of letting alternative voices be heard? Well yes as long as you consider having women and minorities spout out the same narrow range of views one finds in the New York Times, then yes we have diversity.
Alternative VIEWPOINTS, on the other hand, are few and far between. Remember that show about single payer health care (the most common system in the world)? Yeah, me neither. How about that report on those wanting to reform, regulate and break up the big banks? Do you hear about US non-cooperation with international law? Do you ever hear Israeli West Bank settlement being called illegal and not just considered illegal by some? Ever hear the system of campaign financing via lobbyist called corruption?
They you are listening to Moyers and maybe Smiley and West.
So donate to Moyers and the other few and far between, but do not feel that corporate dominated programs that give an upscale polish on the same limited ranges of views needs your money.
In the end we do not even own KQED. It is owned by itself, by a board that elects its own members. Once upon a time KQED board members were elected by KQED members and if that were the case still, my argument would fall flat on its face. But we got rid of that. A nonprofit corporation is still a corporation run by its board, who owns it. The public does not own nonprofits, never did.
So KQED calls itself non-commercial and public broadcasting. I say that they are neither.
Know of the Koch brothers? Did you know of a movie being made called Citizen Koch? Guess who is on the board of another big KQEDesque radio station back east and got the funding quashed on the move being made about him? Think that is the only rich person on a board? Think that is the only time a story went down the tubes because it did not sit well with an affluent stalwart of the community? The effect is part and parcel of how these operations are run. Nonprofits bend to the will of their owners and their big contributors just like any other business. To not have this happen would take some kind of effort and I tell you that this effort is not being made.
When you think about what KQED is, then the practices come into focus. Do the fundraisers sound more like a raffle or telemarketing? Well, just think how much marketing costs to somebody like Subaru in our area and how much air time they get “donating” a car as the “grand prize”. If you keep in mind that the mission is to augment basically commercial operations by bringing in public donations then the rest follows. If you think KQED and NPR are non-commercial, then I do not know how you explain the rest of the circus.
So, do nothing?
Of course not. Public radio, community radio, and all community media needs public support. With public support we can get alternative, independent voices out there and provide services to the community that are truly non-commercial. In our area we have KALW, which is really publically owned belonging to the SF Schools and KPFA which is community owned by voting contributing members. Do they have some of the same problems as KQED, of course they do, but unlike KQED, there are channels of redress. Remember that KPFA in crisis is much more responsive to its supporters than KQED can ever be. I am sure that there are other community radio stations out there that are home to other views that I do not share. Fine. If you are a conservative, or say more Christian, or just a liberal that believes in objective reporting, there are alternative media outlets for you. You would do the whole community a favor by supporting the kind of media you like without diluting in into the same corporate media that serves us all so poorly.
The NPR guilt trip is that if you listen for free, you should help pay. Yet no-one ever makes the same claim for Fox, Startrek or CNN. Maybe if the KQEDers just claimed fewer commercials they would have a better sales talking point.
The sad truth is that the public does not own public broadcasting.