The House of Representatives has slashed $141 million from funding allocated for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting over the next two years.

The CPB cuts were included in a $17 billion deficit reduction package that the House passed on March 16 by a vote of 227-200. President Clinton promised to veto the measure unless the Senate moderates cuts that affect the poor.

The cuts represent a 15% reduction from the $312 million in federal funding to public TV and radio stations in 1996, and a 30% reduction from the $315 million budgeted for 1997.

CPB president Richard Carlson said the cuts, if approved by the Senate, will be “devastating” to the industry.

“Some stations will be forced to close,” Carlson said. “This is not an exaggeration to make a point. It is a fact.”

PBS president Ervin Duggan said the cuts would result in a “sad new chapter” of the “forced commercialization” of public broadcasting. “I hope that cooler heads will prevail and that these cuts will be reversed by the Senate,” Duggan said.

The cuts came the day after the House rejected by a 350-72 vote an amendment offered by conservative Republicans to phase out all federal funding for public broadcasting by 1998.

Under a plan offered by Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.), CPB’s appropriation would have been sliced by one-third in 1996, by another third in 1997 and then eliminated in 1998.

Only 70 Republicans voted for the Crane amendment, along with Democrats Charles Stenholm of Texas and Gary Condit of California. Pubcasting supporters claimed the vote signals that lawmakers are getting heat from constituents who oppose plans by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to “zero out” federal funding for public broadcasting.

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