The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is pushing identity politics—except at pledge time.
After the Trump administration proposed eliminating federal funding for public broadcasting, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cited the plan in a fundraising pitch. The DCCC quickly backed off its position—a partisan appeal doesn’t help public broadcasting’s cause—but the incident is telling. It’s no secret that NPR and PBS lean liberal. Less appreciated is the extent to which Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grants are organized around an idea central to the modern Democratic Party: identity politics.
The CPB annually receives a $445 million federal appropriation to support public television and public radio. Most of this money goes to local stations, which pay dues to PBS and NPR for programming rights. Yet some $97 million of the federal money is distributed as direct programming grants, much of it to independent producers. This money is meant to support TV and radio programming, as well as educational projects that otherwise might not be commercially viable. Note that individual grants are not approved by the corporation’s board, which is made up of presidential appointees.
Much of this money goes to the children’s programming that makes PBS popular. But millions go to nonfiction documentary programming made by independent producers, and that’s where the focus on identity politics becomes clear. The corporation provides grant support to five so-called minority consortia, including African-American, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander groups, as well as Alaska natives.
Additional support is directed toward the Independent Television Service....
Howard Husock is the Vice President of Research and Publications at the Manhattan Institute. From 1987 through 2006, he was director of case studies in public policy and management at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. This piece was adapted from the Spring 2017 Issue of City Journal.