Elon Musk Called Out NPR And PBS As ‘State-Affiliated’: They Freaked

News & Politics

Uri Berliner’s expose of the ideological unanimity at NPR reminds the Republican half of America that they send their taxpayer dollars to Washington to have their viewpoints excluded or ridiculed as “far right” hate. 

Back there in the Stone Age of 2023, Elon Musk, he of X that is formerly Twitter, antagonized NPR and PBS because – ready? Musk had made some changes to “state-affiliated” media designations, applying the term to both of those outlets. They’re state-funded, but not state-affiliated?

While stripping the designation from media outlets tied to governments like those of Russia and Iran, Musk had the nerve – the nerve! – to apply it to, among others, America’s NPR and PBS along with the UK’s BBC and Canada’s CBC.

This is in the news a year later after CNN’s Oliver Darcy, he of CNN’s Reliable Sources, talks of life after X, and looks back at his decision to remove his CNN newsletter from X in July of 2023.

To recall the start of this media kerfuffle, see these headlines.  

First, this one in April of 2023 from NPR

NPR quits Twitter after being falsely labeled as ‘state-affiliated media’

The story reported: 

NPR will no longer post fresh content to its 52 official Twitter feeds, becoming the first major news organization to go silent on the social media platform. In explaining its decision, NPR cited Twitter’s decision to first label the network “state-affiliated media,” the same term it uses for propaganda outlets in Russia, China and other autocratic countries.

Then there was this from the UK Guardian in 2023: 

PBS quits Twitter after being labeled ‘government-funded media’

Broadcaster leaves platform a day after NPR’s exit over concerns labels undermine credibility as independent news outlets

That story reported: 

In a statement to USA Today, Jason Phelps of PBS said the broadcaster’s staffers stopped using the organization’s Twitter account after learning that the platform had relabeled them. Phelps said PBS had “no plans to resume at this time” but added that the organization was ‘continuing to monitor the ever-changing situation closely’.

Here at NewsBusters, reporter Luis Cornelio lasered in on this squabble in May of 2023. 

Uh, Oh! NPR Gets Triggered Over Elon Musk — Again

Cornelio’s story reported: 

Musk initially slapped NPR’s Twitter account with a “state-affiliated” label, a move that triggered a wave of leftist condemnation, with even Biden White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre vouching for NPR’s reporting. NPR President and CEO John Lansing ridiculously pouted that he was “disturbed” by the label. “We were disturbed to see last night that Twitter has labeled NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ a description that, per Twitter’s own guidelines, does not apply to NPR,” Lansing claimed.

Musk later changed NPR’s label to “government-funded media.” But NPR was apparently so triggered, it eventually left the platform. Musk mocked NPR’s exit from Twitter in a series of tweets last month, including a short post saying “Defund @NPR.”

Both PBS and NPR tried to wriggle off Musk’s “state affiliated” description by whining, essentially: “But we don’t take that much money!”

Ahhhh. The Western Journal to the clarification rescue. The WJ investigated, headlining: 

Fact-Check: How Much of PBS, NPR Revenue Comes from Government Funding?

And what did the WJ fact check reveal? This:   

So, just how much money does NPR get from government or government-affiliated sources?

As noted above, NPR says only 1 percent of its annual budget comes from federal sources. But according to its own numbers, the broadcaster gets a lot more from government sources than it lets on.   

For fiscal year 2020, for instance, the broadcaster’s affiliate stations received 8 percent of their revenue from federal appropriations via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

They also got 10 percent from colleges and universities — which themselves are publicly funded — and another 5 percent from federal, state and local governments. That is 23 percent, not 1 percent.”

As Musk pointed out, WJ says NPR also states on its website that… 

federal funding is essential to public radio’s service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.

For its part, PBS gets even more from government or government-affiliated sources.

That “even more” amount would be that:… 

….the TV broadcaster says it gets 15 percent of its revenue from the federal government, 13 percent from state governments, 3 percent from local governments, and 8 percent from universities. That’s a total of 39 percent.

All of which is to say, Musk has been 100% correct to describe PBS and NPR as “state affiliated” – because they both are. For a fact they receive dollars from the government.

According to that Guardian article , a PBS spokesman laughably said that:

Twitter’s simplistic label leaves the inaccurate impression that PBS is wholly funded by the federal government.

Hello? Needless to say, whether “wholly funded” or “partially funded” or accepting a dollar of government money, PBS is still taking government tax dollars to stay afloat. But, as discussed in this space with the recent, much publicized resignation of longtime NPR editor Uri Berliner, the network exists in a liberal bubble, no dissent allowed. 

There was an easy and obvious way for NPR and PBS to answer Musk’s criticism and get out from under his “state-affiliated” designation once and for all.

That would be: Stop taking money from the government. Period. Stop taking any money from any government apparatus. Period. Make the “P” in NPR and PBS stand not for “Public” – aka taking government funds – but rather “P” as in “Private.” As in “National Private Radio” and “Private Broadcasting Service.”

All of which would make NPR and PBS a genuine private sector competitor with the rest of the American private sector free market in the world of television and radio broadcasting.

Would that happen? Of course not. Again, as Uri Berliner documents, the network exists in a liberal bubble. Not even Elon Musk can get through it.

They want to challenge Elon Musk – but not like that. 

The bottom line?

Elon Musk was right. Both PBS and NPR take government funding. They still do.

And, one can reasonably suspect, neither has any intention of stopping. 

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