Corp's funds to be cut by more than 50%

The Bush administration wants to hack federal funding for public broadcasting by more than 50% and possibly zero out the budget in as little as two years. In its fiscal 2009 budget submitted to Congress on Monday, the administration proposed cutting $200 million from the $400 million that lawmakers have already appropriated for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting in 2009. The plan also calls for slashing the $420 million Congress has authorized for fiscal 2010 by $220 million.

The Bush budget lists no advance appropriation for fiscal 2011, and it also denies pubcasting any additional funding to assist in the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.

The proposed cuts were no surprise given that the administration has tried to defund pubcasting for the last eight years. Congress has always rejected the cuts and restored the money, and it is expected to do so again.

Still, pubcasters were worried.

“While we are acutely aware of the difficult budgetary choices facing the federal government, the cuts proposed in the budget for public broadcasting are draconian,” said CPB topper Patricia Harrison in a statement. “Implementation of these severe cuts would impact millions of Americans who utilize public broadcasting on so many levels, beginning with educational programming and services. Further, it would work to degrade a 40-year partnership the American people overwhelmingly support and their elected representatives in Congress have repeatedly voted to strengthen.”

CPB is responsible for allotting public dollars to public broadcasting entities, such as PBS and NPR.

“Just days ago, a national Pew survey cited public radio and NPR as the only growing broadcast news source for Americans seeking to learn about the presidential race,” said NPR chief exec Ken Stern in a statement. “Now, the drastic proposed cuts threaten to diminish this kind of information, context and community that we provide more than 30 million citizens weekly.”

“The last time funding was challenged, more than 2 million Americans who count on public broadcasting contacted their members of Congress and made their voices heard,” Stern continued. “We welcome their renewed support as we respond to this challenge,” he added.

“The president’s budget proposal regarding the communications sector offers much of what we have seen in prior years, such as the ill-advised attack on the Corp. for Public Broadcasting,” said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. “In the past, Congress has wisely blocked these attempts, and I suspect Congress will do so again.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more