chapter  2
19 Pages

Public Radio in Crisis

ByJason Loviglio

One of the earliest and most persistent viral hoaxes to circulate through American email inboxes at the dawn of the internet age featured the alarming claim that National Public Radio (NPR), the US public radio network, was on the verge of elimination through federal de-funding. The email message’s origins were sincere: In 1995, a Florida undergraduate, concerned about culture war rhetoric, responded to a very real proposal in Congress to radically defund public radio, television, and the arts with an email petition to voice support for the institutions. Later versions added the subject heading “Save Sesame Street!” and contrived references to NPR news reports of the impending budget cuts. In various forms, the message bounced around the internet for years, until fi nally petering out in the late 1990s. The coda to this hoax, of course, is that in the decade since this email petition has petered out, the threats to eliminate NPR funding have become increasingly serious, generating new rounds of internet discourse.3