funding for public broadcasting

The House Appropriations Committee has released a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government when the current CR expires on March 4.

The legislation includes proposed cuts of 61 billion dollars from thousands of public programs.

Early this morning the resolution passed in the House, approving the elimination of all federal support for local public television and radio stations across the nation.

I’ve worked in public radio for 26 years in various professional capacities: Program Director, Music Director, Host, Music Liaison, Assistant Music Director, Special Reporter, Board Op…and I’ve been a public radio and TV consumer for my whole life. My employment depends on the continued strong support of public broadcasting, but – even more importantly – the richness and quality of my life as an informed American does.

The radio stations I work for now receive some federal funding via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the immediate elimination of that funding would certainly have devastating effects. But there are public radio and TV stations around the country, especially in rural areas, that depend on that funding much more than the ones I work for. Today’s vote in the House, if also approved next in the Senate, will change the public media landscape forever in the US and create entire populations without access to the information these media services provide. Ryan Mason talks about this in his article, “Why Cutting Public Funding for PBS Harms Poor Americans More Than Rich“.

Also dependent on these federal funds are the numerous independent producers, filmmakers, journalists, researchers and public projects whose work is funded by CPB grants. Do you know about StoryCorps, the world’s largest oral history project? This, too, is a CPB-funded project. The federal funding in question goes beyond supporting only radio and television. And all of this says nothing about funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, all of which is ALSO proposed to be eliminated.

Some numbers: the United States national deficit this year is roughly $1.27-trillion. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is $430 million, making it roughly .037 percent of this year’s shortfall. That amounts to a little less than $1.40 per American, with more than 70 percent of that funding going to local radio and TV stations via the CPB. The remaining 30 percent supports the kinds of projects I mention above.

In her thoughtful article, “A Fan’s Case for Ending Federal Support to Public Radio and Public TV“, Jill Lawrence makes the case for eliminating federal funding but doing it gradually as a planned effort: “The most measured approach would be to put CPB on a five- to 10-year phase-out plan, gradually reducing its budget as other means of financing are developed.” That seems a reasonable enough approach to the situation, though we must keep in mind that access to foundation, underwriting, and broad membership support (common other means through which many public TV and radio stations receive funding) are still very limited in rural and lower-income regions.

Please take some time to read the articles linked here and make your own decision about the need for federal funding of public media and public producers, projects, researchers and filmmakers.

The Senate vote on this bill is scheduled to happen during the week of February 28th. You know my viewpoint. If you decide that public media should receive continued funding please join the awareness effort at 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting.  In Vermont we full Congressional support for the federal funding of public media. That’s far from being the case in every state, so if you don’t live in Vermont and you want to send a message of support for funding public media, contact your Senators.

Other viewpoints and related articles:

The Root: “Why Black Americans Should Fight for Public Media”

Rebekah Rast: “Time to Stop Funding Luxuries, Like Public Broadcasting” (ed. note: are investigative journalism and childhood education “luxuries”?)

Laura Walker and Jaclyn Sallee: “The Argument for Funding Public Media”

170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting on facebook

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