Not Profitable Radio

January 26, 2009

So it finally has come down to the brass tacks; the government asking itself for a bailout. There is nowhere else to run. There is nowhere else to hide. We are stuck staring the truth straight in the face as the news is that National Public Radio, a government sponsored entity which does not make enough money to stay afloat without millions of taxpayer dollars, is asking for a bailout (i.e., more taxpayer money) in order to fund all sorts of pet projects and big dreams. The Public Broadcasting System is also sticking their hands out too for more tax dollars than they already receive.

In all, these government-funded consumers of valuable air waves and bandwidth are asking for, according to reports, another $550 million. The money, they claim, is needed because they provide such a valuable public service and that we would all be in such a terrible crisis if they were to not survive the latest economic downturn and tough times.

I have a slightly different take on this. If the service they provided was indeed so valuable that we, the American people, could not do without it, they would not need to beg their government benefactors for a single dime. If their services were so in demand advertisers would be stumbling over themselves to reach the millions of people tuning in each and every day to government-sponsored broadcasts and government-sponsored programming to sell whatever it is that they have to sell.

Of course, the reality is that the "valuable" service that NPR, PBS and other government sponsored entities provide is not really all that much in demand and there are not millions of people tuning in each and every day to listen or watch. For PBS, when pledge time comes around, there are not phones ringing off the hook with patrons eager to fund their operation and plans apparently. For NPR they cannot sell advertising and charge rates high enough to make advertising revenues reach the levels needed because not enough people are listening. If they could, they would!

But even a quick glance at the latest ratings for the local Pittsburgh market for Fall 2008 shows that none of the three stations broadcasting NPR programming (WDUQ, WQED and WYEP) have any listenership that registers at all. Each of them also gladly accepts advertisers or "underwriters" as they are often known in the public radio, "not for profit" business. So knowing that these stations do not even register as a blip on the ratings scale, how can anyone make the claim that they provide a service, valuable or otherwise?

In Pittsburgh you have stations like WDVE-FM which plays Album Oriented Rock pulling down an 8.9 Average Quarter Hour Share to lead the market followed by KDKA-AM and WPGB-FM, two stations with in inarguably conservative news and information slant pulling down a combined 15.0 share (8.5 and 6.5 respectively). Heck, even WPTT-AM which was the local liberal station featuring nonsensical mumblings from local moonbat Lynn Cullen and national "talent" Thom Hartmann at least registered on the radar! Sure they limped in with a pathetic 0.8 share before shutting down and restarting as a news talk station focusing on financial and economic issues but at least they could claim to have some listeners!

National Public Radio should be renamed Not Profitable Radio while the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) should be called more inline with the support it actually receives; Pretty Blah Support.

Let's look at reality. Radio is free as long as you first shell out as little as $10 for a radio at K-Mart. Basic television is also free as long as you first cough up as little as $100 for a low, low, low end television. Every American makes a choice what to watch and listen to and the results are in. Radio hosts like Limbaugh, Beck, Quinn & Rose, Boortz, Hannity and Savage are not looking for bailouts nor, dare I point out, are the vast majority of stations that broadcast them. At worst, these stations might be suffering because other hosts on their lineup are not carrying their own weight and they are relying too heavily on hosts actually in demand by the public to keep afloat a variety of personalities that cannot draw more interest than crazy Aunt Martha at Christmas dinner.

NPR certainly doesn't need a bailout. It certainly does not need taxpayer money. What they need is programming that people will tune in to hear! Until they are willing to enter the real world and accept the laws of economics that prevail out here, they should be allowed to fail and fail miserably without a single penny of tax dollars to bail them and their grand schemes out.

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Copyright ©2009 J.J. Jackson

J.J. Jackson is a libertarian conservative author from Pittsburgh, PA who has been writing and promoting individual liberty since 1993 and is President of Land of the Free Studios, Inc. He is the Pittsburgh Conservative Examiner for  He is also the owner of The Right Things - Conservative T-shirts & Gifts. His weekly commentary along with exclusives not available anywhere else can be found at Liberty Reborn.