Growing up in a small town near Hays, I thought I lived in western Kansas — that is, until I came to teach at Garden City Community College.
Driving west through Great Bend, my wife complained softly of the distance: another hour to grain-elevator Kalvesta; yet another to big-town Garden City.
Wide-open spaces seemed wider yet as I worked my summer job with the Soil Conservation Service. Most days, nearly an hour’s drive was our minimum to reach Finney County farmers. Plains stretched from horizon to horizon, interrupted only by the occasional farmstead, tree, tractor, or cattle herd.
Isolation was easy to come by and difficult to overcome.
There was no public radio.
That is, until two young, ambitious Garden City grads, Quentin Hope and Malcolm Smith, came back with high hopes and a big idea--creating an area
public radio station. Fundraisers were held. Community petitions
circulated. Local engineering volunteers were enlisted. And a few short years after I arrived, High Plains Public Radio was born.
Suddenly, we heard daily not only from our neighbors in Ulysses, Sublette, Dodge City, Syracuse, and Scott City. We also heard, live from every corner of the state, country, and globe, news on All Things Considered and Morning Edition. While the area and community rallied to make HPPR happen, it would have been impossible without federal funding and assistance.
This is Representative Tim Huelskamp’s home area. Without it, he and his neighbors would gain information only through useful, but short-sighted commercial radio, whose primary purpose is profit. By contrast, citizen-owned public radio’s primary purpose is the public good.
So, how does one explain Representative Huelskamp’s vote to deal a death blow to this vital enterprise? Why vote to suck such crucial local support into the government’s maw and marrow?
It makes no sense. Unless you consider that Huelskamp is indeed a Representative—but not, first and foremost, for his constituents.
His recent response to letters requesting he vote for, not against, NPR contained only one simple excuse: “We can’t afford it.” What bunk.
National public broadcasting is remarkably cost effective, providing local news and information, free of charge, for millions of viewers while only receiving about .0001 percent of the federal budget.
Such attacks on public broadcasting would eliminate all federal funds to some 1,300 public radio and public TV stations around the country.
Some rural stations, the only source of local and national news and information, depend on federal funding for up to 30% or even more of their budget. The vast majority of money from the federal government goes to support local stations - not NPR - and those stations match each dollar with six more. These kinds of stations are the ones Huelskamp assigned to the guillotine.
In so doing, he voted to slice away public radio’s independent reporting.
His vote ignores 69 percent of the public, including more than half the Republican faithful, who oppose attempts to gut federal funding for public media. Even Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia, says it’s unwise to eliminate their federal funds, because “they provide a valuable service.”
As Oscar Wilde might say, Huelskamp seems to know the price of everything — and the value of nothing.
In a world where wealth and large corporations can buy all the influence they want, mostly through commercial media, we, the people, need our voice as well. NPR, though not perfect, is one place for it.
You should have fewer tea parties, Rep. Huelskamp, and more time to wake up and smell the coffee.