Pols slice 23% of pubcasting budget

A House subcommittee slashed $115 million from federal funding of public broadcasting, a 23% cut in the previously approved budget for the 2007 fiscal year.

In a time of soaring federal deficits on top of an expensive foreign war, pubcasters knew some reduction was probably inevitable. Still, several were surprised by how deep the cleaver went.

“This markup represents significant cuts to public broadcasting that will drastically reduce the programming and services public television and public radio can provide to local communities and that are greatly at odds with important national goals,” said PBS topper Paula Kerger in a statement.

“The decision also threatens the very existence of nearly 200 stations in 43 states who are the sole broadcasters to remote, rural and minority communities that face an even greater challenge in connecting with the world,” NPR prexy Kevin Klose said in a statement.

Cutting pubcasting’s appropriation, which is overseen by the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, drew cautionary concern from CPB topper Patricia Harrison, who said in a statement, “A 20%-plus cut … will impact all CPB programs, and undermine public broadcasting’s ability to continue to offer essential educational services and provide a backbone for a national emergency alert system.”

The cuts hit pubcasting particularly hard on educational programming, eliminating the entire budget — $24.2 million — for the Ready to Learn program. Money to help pubcasters transition to digital television also was zeroed out.

John Lawson, prexy-chief of the Assn. of Public Television Stations, suggested the subcommittee members are out of sync with their other colleagues.

“These cuts are targeted to inflict maximum damage and contradict other goals of Congress,” he said in a statement. “They eliminate funds for educational, commercial-free children’s programming the same week the House is voting to curb TV indecency.”

Slashing pubcasting funds has almost become an annual ritual. The same House subcommittee cut even more into the CPB appropriation last year, only to have the Senate restore almost all funds. Advocates are hoping for a repeat.

“I look forward to making the case to the House and Senate for their full support, appreciation and respect for the inherent value of public broadcasting to our civil society, our children’s education, and our nation’s security,” Harrison said.

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