NPR Funding Battle Stirs Audience

Host Michel Martin and the program's "digital media guy" Lee Hill review listener perspectives on attempts in Congress bar federal funding for NPR. They also hear listeners' childhood experiences with bullying following a conversation on White House efforts to prevent the practice in schools.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me, as he is most Fridays.

Hi, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, House Republicans voted yesterday to bar federal funding to NPR. The bill prevents NPR member stations from using federal dollars to pay fees to NPR. And those fees account for 40 percent of the public radio network's revenue. The legislation now moves to the Senate and yesterday the White House says it, quote, strongly opposes the measure.

Michel, Monday, in your commentary, you talked about the case for NPR funding.

(Soundbite of previous broadcast)

MARTIN: What I want to talk about speaks to the argument that I keep hearing from people who both support and dislike NPR, which comes down to, support it because I like it or cut the funding because I don't. In each case, the question should not be, do I want this, do I like this, but in what ways does this support the common good or not?

HILL: Well, we've since heard from a range of listeners who shared their views online. Here's a post from Felicia(ph). She writes: I lived in rural areas for many years and public broadcasting was the only thing that came in reliably over the airwaves. That's how I received news in Alaska and weather warnings in South Dakota. Not to mention the fact that it kept me in touch with the rest of America. This is not an emotional appeal, but a rational question about whether or not public safety would be affected by the decision to defund public broadcasting.

MARTIN: Thanks, Felicia. Lee, we also heard from CK(ph). He wrote: I love NPR, but I think we need to cut the federal funding. I know many people feel the same. They love NPR, but they can't justify the tax dollars. So, thanks to you, also, CK.

Lee, what else do you have?

HILL: Michel, this week we also talked about new efforts by the White House to stop bullying. The first couple hosted a conference last week here in Washington, and they also recorded this public service announcement.

Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA (First Lady): It's tough enough being a kid today and our children deserve the chance to learn and grow without constantly being picked on, made fun of or worse.

President BARACK OBAMA: For a long time bullying was treated as an unavoidable part of growing up. But more and more we're seeing how harmful it can be for our kids, especially when it follows them from their school, to their phone, to their computer screen.

HILL: And we asked listeners to share their experiences with bullying. And here's a note we received from Ruth. She says she's now in her 50s. She writes, when I was young, I was very thin. I was made fun of for being too skinny. And when I was about 13, I developed lupus and was very sick and had to take massive doses of prednisone, which made me gain weight up to the normal range and gave me a very round moon face.

Of course I was then made fun of because of that. Now I am overweight because of poor choices and some medical issues. But the difference is, I realize that it is really what is on the inside that counts.

MARTIN: Thank you, Ruth. And thanks to all who shared some very personal stories with us. And we appreciate that. Of course, this follows a conversation we had this week with LaNiyah Bailey. She's six years old and she's overweight also, in part, due to a medical condition. And she, along with her parents, has written a book about being teased about her size.

And, Lee, we also heard from Ted(ph). As a youngster, he was the one doing the bullying. And he writes, I remember being teased a lot in fifth and sixth grade. As a result, I would target, quote, weirder kids, seeking the acceptance of the kids teasing me. As I outgrew my quiet phase and made more friends in high school, I found myself projecting this at least I'm better than so-and-so routine less often. But as I started to experience attraction to the other guys, apparently some people caught on and the hurtful homophobic comments started.

And Ted goes on to tell a little bit more about his story. That's posted on our site. So, Ted, thank you also, for your candor and to all who wrote in. And thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR.

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