Howard Husock: “As a conservative, this is not the kind of thing I usually find myself saying, but the situation is dire and the consequences for our democracy are immense.”
The House has approved funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the independent agency that dispenses federal money for noncommercial media. The $495 million in funding, which was not only full funding but an additional $50 million, is for 2022. CPB is forward funded in an attempt to depoliticize the process.
The $30 million in the White House’s proposed 2018 budget for CPB is intended for “an orderly closeout of federal funding.” The draft, which requires congressional approval, would also zero out public broadcasting’s interconnection update program in FY18, as well as the public TV early literacy initiative Ready To Learn.
A budget deal reached over the weekend spares funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and even increases money to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities. President Trump’s budget plans had called for cutting back on the funding for the arts agencies for the rest of 2017, or through September, and proposed eliminating money to the groups in next year’s budget.
Public television’s spring fundraising rolled out in a heated high-stakes environment for clearly communicating the case for viewer and public support of local stations. Beyond standard pitches for pledge shows, on-air fundraisers had to manage reactions to President Trump’s proposal to zero out CPB funding. In some cases they were called upon to explain why an infusion of spectrum auction cash won’t eliminate the need for local or federal financial support.
At a time when many public broadcasters are being told to reduce their dependence on public money and find new forms of revenue through new subscriptions and grants, Maryland Public Television could be getting more money from the state of Maryland under a pending bill.
The media landscape has changed since the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was chartered, says board member Howard Husock, who claims public media has outlived its original mission.
The Media Institute’s Patrick Maines: “PBS and NPR are again the subject of a contentious debate about their taxpayer funding. For years, Republicans and conservatives have accused NPR and PBS of ideological and political bias. Defenders of public broadcasting are on firmer ground when they extol the virtues of the cultural and educational programming found on NPR and PBS. Perhaps Congress would consider legislation that eliminates government support of public broadcasting’s news and public affairs programming, but preserves its support for cultural and educational programs.”
President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal makes him the second president to try to kill funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the first to target the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well. It comes as the Public Broadcasting Act celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Cutting off federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting could devastate stations in smaller markets that already have tight budgets.
President Trump is proposing to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides federal support for public broadcasting, as part of a budget package that makes massive cuts across government agencies while increasing defense spending by $54 billion. The White House will unveil details of a budget outline on Thursday morning, but officials briefed reporters on the plans on Wednesday.
People in public broadcasting expect President Trump to propose “zeroing out” the government’s subsidy of noncommercial radio and TV stations when he presents his first federal budget to Congress this week. Such a proposal would eliminate the $445 million that Congress now sends to CPB, the private entity that passes the money to nearly 1,500 stations affiliated with NPR, PBS and other public media sources.
Though the electorate is divided, both Republicans and Democrats polled in a new PBS-commissioned survey said they support federal funding for public television. The survey of 1,001 registered voters, conducted Jan. 4–8, found that 73% said they opposed the elimination of federal funding for public TV. Eighty-three percent of Democrats did not want funding cuts, along with 82% of independents and 62% of Republicans.
Despite efforts to strip government funding for public broadcasting, PBS chief Paula Kerger said the federal budget deal retains most of the money that President Obama had set aside for public television and radio stations. The response of viewers was key, she said.