In an interview with Fortune, Mitt Romney says that he will eliminate government outlays to PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Romney has said this before. In the runup to the Iowa caucus, he signalled that these were programs he would cut, albeit he would obviously need to convince Congress to do away with the appropriations, which have survived despite a history of threats from conservatives through the years.
Romney told Fortune, per an excerpt in Politico, "[T]here are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to standon their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf."
Federal government funding for public broadcasting is primarily channeled through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes money to stations, and makes up for an average of 15% of their budgets. The most recent appropriation was $445 million. Conservative orgs have long argued that private sources could make up the difference. Aggressive lobbying has saved CPB funding in recent efforts, and it recently released a Booz & Co. report concluding that "the loss of federal funding will mean the end of public broadcasting."
"Federal money is the foundation upon which stations build and raise, on average, at least six times the amount they receive from the federal government," the report stated. "This nonfederal money lets CPB know that stations are receiving a positive ―report card from the communities they serve."
The CPB has been saved by mounting an aggressive lobbying campaign. Last year, a drive to zero out funding in the House was stopped in the Senate, where public broadcasting has enjoyed even bipartisan support.
What will be interesting to see is the extent to which PBS funding becomes an issue in the presidential campaign, expected to be dominated by debates about jobs, the deficit and Medicare. But public television and arts funding obviously has particular resonance in entertainment, not only because CPB, NEA and NEH draws on industry figures as activists, but because of where it puts the chairman of the CPB. That is prominent attorney Bruce Ramer, a longtime supporter of Republicans who also has given to Romney's campaign and has raised money for Republican candidates. In the past, sources say Ramer has quietly lobbied Capitol Hill Republicans to make the case for CPB funding.
The NEA and NEH have long been targets, but they also have survived severe cuts despite efforts to scale back arts funding. Conservatives are particularly suspicious of Rocco Landesman, the chairman of the NEA who supported President Obama in 2008, and whether the projects the NEA supports have a political bent.