"At some point you've made enough money…"

I don’t want to be unfair. NPR is a big organization, and a big organization, especially if it is headed by someone with valuable know-how and an even more valuable Rolodex should pay its top person accordingly.

But then there is this:

PBS President Paula Kerger even recorded a personal television appeal that told viewers exactly how to contact members of Congress in order to “let your representative know how you feel about the elimination of funding for public broadcasting.” But if PBS can pay Ms. Kerger $632,233 in annual compensation—as reported on the 990 tax forms all nonprofits are required to file—surely it can operate without tax dollars.

Geez, Louise, whatever happened to “at some point you’ve made enough money,” and $250,000 a year being considered kind of “rich”?

But there is more:

Despite how accessible media has become to Americans over the years, funding for CPB has grown considerably. In 2001, the federal government appropriated $340 million for CPB. Last year it got $420 million. As Congress considers ways to close the $14 trillion deficit, cutting funding for the CPB has even been proposed by President Obama’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission. Instead, Mr. Obama wants to increase CPB’s funding to $451 million in his latest budget.

Meanwhile, highly successful, brand-name public programs like Sesame Street make millions on their own. “Sesame Street,” for example, made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales from 2003-2006. Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 in compensation in 2008. With earnings like that, Big Bird doesn’t need the taxpayers to help him compete against the Nickleodeon cable channel’s Dora the Explorer.

Something to that. Shouldn’t programs produced with public moneys turn over all of their profits to the public coffers to start with, or am I being naive? Seems to me that after licensing and royalty fees are paid, whatever profit Sesame Street makes from sales of related products should be turned over to the government, or — if that would be a bad business move — they should go private.

And it also seems to me that anyone working for a publicly-funded entity should perhaps make a bit less than $600K for radio or 900K for a tv show.

I grant you, those are not private-sector salaries. But when the nation is in a deep recession, where there are no jobs, when the budgets are busted, when new job offers are down 30%…it just seems to me the government (public) funded salaries should fall more in line with what President Obama said was “enough” money.

Your thoughts?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Anonymous

    I’m looking forward to every corporation that receives tax breaks or other subsidies to turn over their profits and cut down their executive pay as well. You’re really on to something here!

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    She make that much on the public dime? Holy moly. Now I’m on a mission to end public broadcasting. And she has the audacity to ask for public money? Oh that makes my blood boil.

  • Mandy P.

    Even the president’s salary is less than both those figures. I repeat: the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES makes less than both of the people you cited. I think his job is a wee bit more important. Hence, if you work in the public sector, you should never make more than the president.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  • Gomer

    Except that money is, more often than not, freely earned, not stolen via taxation. A CEO of a private corporation may earn a ridiculous sum, but at least that money comes from willing consumers, not the unwilling public. This is clearly a transfer of wealth from poor (me) to the rich (the CPB executives).

    End public television. Keep viewer supported television. Problem solved. Thank you and goodnight.

  • Tobiasmurphy

    Exactly! As union protests go on around the country and government employees make six figure salaries, all I can do is balk when they want more of my hard-earned income to line their bloated pockets, and I make far below a six figure salary doing good, honest work (I teach theology). I have mouths to feed. You can’t have my hard-earned money, you leeches!

  • Anonymous

    There was another appeal stuck on the Antiques Roadshow FB page. It turns out that even dumb Americans can figure out that $1.35 per person times 308 million people comes out to over $415,000,000.

    If these shows are so well-watched, perhaps it’s time to see how well-watched they would be on cable channels. Americans have plenty of cable channels that would snap up programs like Sesame Street, and Antiques Roadshow in a second.

    I think the time and the need for public broadcasting is over. It was an idea of FDR to inform the public of emergencies and such. There are numerous avenues for that information to be transmitted.
    With the advent of internet-capable cell phones, information even in the event of a disaster can be broadcasted without PBS.

  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    I have no problem with someone earning a crazy amount of money – so long as it’s not coming out of my wallet.

    These salaries are grotesque in any economic climate; most especially in the current one. P.BO wants to add more money to an organization that MAKES so much it can pay it’s CEO 10 times more than the average person makes. These are supposed to be NON-PROFIT organizations. How do they have the face to even try to justify these salaries?

  • doc

    “turn over their profits”? Wow, you really are a committed Marxist. That’ll get you a tenured spot at a publicly funded university. Are you also going to demand executive pay cuts at publicly funded colleges and education bureaucracies?

  • Teresa D.

    I wasn’t aware of this astounding salary. I hope the Republicans have enough backbone to cut off the funding entirely. Time for them to go to cable and actually compete.

  • C.W.

    Maybe Obama’s $451,000,000 “offering” to the CPB is related to the fact that the majority of “news” broadcasts on NPR begin with the words “President Obama.” Civil war in Libya?; disaster in Afghanistan?… no matter. “President Obama” tops the news.

  • SteveM

    Those PBS salaries are indeed egregious because of the taxpayer subsidies. However, much of the “non-profit” IRS 501C paradigm is a racket. I.e., the officers of the organizations live very large on the backs of ham and egger donations.

    For example, the self-identified Tea Party mouthpiece FreedomWorks pays CEO Dick Armey $500,000 and he travels first class. President Matt Kibbe is paid $300,000. 800,000 thousand bucks and all those two guys do is show up. BTW Kibbe’s wife is also on the payroll as a “management consultant”.

    Meanwhile, every page on the FreedomWorks site has a “Make a donation” link to separate Joe Sixpack from his beer money in order to pay for Armey’s and Kibbe’s champagne and caviar life-styles.

    There are a ton of self-aggrandizing organizations like FreedomWorks with names and mission statements that tug at heart strings while camouflaging how donations are actually used. And each has a “Make a donation” page.

    For those who are interested the GuideStar website:


    has free access to non-profit financials (IRS 990 Form submissions, registration required).

    DC is parasitical from many different directions.

  • Elizabeth K.

    I’ve been reading a lot of these kinds of stories lately. This does seem egregious, but I think I’d need more information before I reached the outrage stage. I know of smaller nonprofits, for example, where the CEO makes way more money than that. I’m not saying it’s right, but again, I’d need more information to say it’s wrong. Is this an issue where they’re trying to be competitive with private sector entities? Is a 600K salary comparable to that of a CEO in a similar organization, or is it half the size? That seems important. How much of the salary, and the overall budget, comes from tax money? I don’t think that a comparison to the President, or a governor, is apt, either–but again, it depends a lot on what’s happening with profits, etc.., as you pointed out.

  • Elizabeth K.

    I should add: I think you’re right to take umbrage with this in light of the “sometimes you’ve made enough money” comment. It’s a bit rich in that context.

  • nan

    The excessive salaries at PBS should be cut down. PBS gets so much money in royalties and grants they don’t need government help. They remind me of other non profit CEO’s which make soooo much money; like American Cancer Society’s CEO which made over 2 MILLION dollars!!! You can checkout the top 25 not for profit salaries :

  • SteveM

    Elizabeth, I agree with your observations. Let me make 2 related points.

    The first is that “reasonable and customary” compensation calculations are perverse. Because a chummy board simply cites bloated compensation of other non-profits to rationalize shoveling hyper-bucks to their own people. It’s a vicious cycle of financial back-scratching.

    The second egregious point from my PoV is the lack of compensation transparency on the non-profit donation links and mailings that go out begging for money.

    Lastly, I recognize the huge difference in management responsibilities of non-profits that offer genuine services such as Catholic Charities here in DC versus advocacy organizations.

    The management teams from social service organizations sweat bullets every day in meeting the needs of their poor constituents. Unlike the very fat and very happy plutocrats of non-profit advocacy organizations like FreedomWorks whose only services are opinions.

    Paying someone half a million bucks to merely gas-bag doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t think it would make sense to Joe Sixpack either. If he only knew…

  • dry valleys

    Sell the whole lot to Rupert Murdoch. Then we’ll all be happy.

  • JohnC

    Lets face it: NPR & PBS are not for profit, not charities. In real charities, e.g. Catholic Charities, the donations go to those in need with a minimal amount to admistration. Public broadcasting needs to go, since as noted below they spout the party line. Unfortunately, Sesame Street remains a shadow of what it was. My wife and I saw a huge diffference between our children watching it. It, as well as much of the other “educational” programs dwells too much on “feeling” rather than the three R’s. It’s time for NPR & PBS to survive on their own.

  • Lisa

    “There are a ton of self-aggrandizing organizations like FreedomWorks with names and mission statements that tug at heart strings while camouflaging how donations are actually used.”

    Yes, like Planned Parenthood for example… where you can give a gift card for an abortion. However, unlike PP and PBS, FreedomWorks does not make a profit on the backs of taxpayers.

    It’s disingenuous to equate an entity that profits because taxpayers are forced to subsidize it with an entity that survives on donations only. Simple solution – stop taxpayer funded PBS – put a pay pal donation button on the website and then Paula can be paid what the market thinks she’s worth.

  • Gpd2543

    You are just like all the rest of the people who cry poor me and those leeches that want my hard earned money. Well first of all the Union workers that are public sector do not make 6 figure salaries. And those great big pensions are really an average of $19,000. a year. And the reason they even get the pension is because pensions are deferred compensation.
    My husband was a public sector worker and his pension is under $10,000.00. Try living on that!!

  • craig

    Nickelodeon surpassed Sesame Street years ago with Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer. Now cable (sorry, don’t know which channel) has a couple of versions of Antiques Roadshow, only they’re called “Pawn Star” and “Hardcore Pawn”.

  • TeaPot562

    In August-September 2009, PBS put on a “full court press” to sell to their audiences the then-current nationalized health insurance program then under consideration by the Democratic-controlled Congress. If PBS and NPR are going to take political positions on a partisan basis, they SHOULD NOT be funded by all taxpayers. My understanding is that Thomas Jefferson said that using a man’s taxes to propound opinions that were contrary to what he believed was tyranny.
    Also, PBS and NPR have a very bad record on the taxpayer-funded abortion matter. When the Florida legislature circa 2008 passed a bill restricting abortion, NPR interviewed one of the legislators on the losing side, passing along her opinion as factual. One would think that a nonpartisan broadcaster (which is what NPR is supposed to be) would interview one of the legislators on the winning side – perhaps one of each – in order to give some guidance to an unbiased presentation of the story.
    One vote AGAINST any tax money funding NPR or PBS.

  • tricoteuse

    The Tea Party takes no money from taxpayers. That’s the point. It should live or die on it’s own, like NPR.

  • AlaskaHome1959

    Contrary to popular myth PBS/CPB is free of commercials nor of the entanglements of those commercials. Watch virtually any PBS show and you will presented with an announcement that the program has been sponsored by XYZ company. That’s an advertisement, folks. And you can’t tell me that PBS/CPB isn’t going to cater to those advertising dollars if a big-money corporate sponsor threatens to pull those big dollars out because of something PBS/CPB says or does.

    In truth, PBX/CPB is no different than ABC, CBS, or NBC, or any other overtly for profit network.

  • Will

    It is well past time to cut the defense spending. Foreign countries will not bring down our country. Federal budget deficits and trade deficits threaten our future.

  • Pheetsee

    I am going to post this on my FB page, as well as send it to my Senators and Congressman. My husband and I have always referred to Sesame Street when discussing why public funding for PBS is a scam. This show, along with Barney and Clifford, not to mention some of the other “cash-cow” shows, should alone pay for PBS’ budget. The merchandising fees are out the wazoo!