Tauzin tickles PBS

Rep's call for more funding pleases pubcasters

WASHINGTON — Pubcasters meeting in Miami Monday gave a warm reception to a proposal by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) to greatly increase the annual subsidy for noncommercial programming.

Tauzin, who chairs the powerful House Telecommunications Subcommittee, has proposed a sizable increase in pubcast funding to $475 million from $325 million. In addition, Tauzin has proposed an additional $475 million to help pubcasters make the transition to digital service. The bill would create a nine-member panel to come up with recommendations to guarantee the future of public broadcasting.

Markey’s mark

The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), also calls for the creation of a nine-member blue ribbon panel that would weigh several proposals, including creation of a trust fund large enough to replace the annual federal subsidy.

In his speech to the pubcasters, Tauzin said the trust fund should be large enough to generate 70% of “the annual operating expense of each public broadcasting station.” Pubcasters back the idea of a trust fund and have proposed that it be financed with at least $5 billion.

“We are very pleased with the significant (increase to) the authorization level,” said PBS spokesman Tom Epstein, adding that pubcasters were also encouraged by the plan to add an additional $95 million a year to the pubcasting subsidy, which would be earmarked to help finance the transition to digital service.

Flip side

In his satellite-delivered speech to pubcasters Monday, Tauzin also made it clear that he does not like pubcasters’ growing reliance on corporate sponsorships to help pay for programming. In his prepared remarks, Tauzin said he wanted to do something to curb PBS’ growing reliance on corporate sponsorship’s to finance programming.

“We are reauthorizing CPB at an increased level because we value public broadcasting and respect its mission to remain public and noncommercial,” he said.

Tauzin’s speech was not all good news for pubcasters. The legislation he is expected to officially introduce in Congress today also asks the panel to examine a proposal to limit federal funding to one noncommercial station in a market. Tauzin proposes using the proceeds from the sale of noncommercial stations to help create the trust fund.