The House Appropriations Committee unveiled new funding bill for 2013 and beyond that cuts federal funding to public broadcasting.
The bill cuts all funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2015. The CPB, which distributes funds to public stations nationwide, also would see $111.3 million rescinded from its budget in fiscal year 2013, and $222.5 million in 2014. Public broadcasting operates on an advanced appropriations cycle.
While the funding bill won’t make it too far in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which already has proposed a $445 million budget for public broadcasting, it reflects an ongoing effort by conservatives to force public broadcasting to rely on sources of private donations. Mitt Romney, for instance, last year said that public broadcasting should be able to survive on its own philanthropy.
“This proposal flies in the face if the will of the American people, who routinely rank public broadcasting as one of the best investments the federal government makes and who overwhelmingly support our work and our public service mission, across the ideological spectrum,” said Patrick Butler, president and CEO of the Assn. of Public Television Stations.
He said that federal funding already has been slashed by 13% over the past two fiscal years, and that the cuts “would mean the end of public broadcasting in America.”
It would seem that the outlook for public broadcasting is better this year than last. Coming off of Tea Party victories in the 2010 midterms, the new Republican majority in the House was anxious to make a mark, and it followed through on the budget resolution to end government support for public stations. The NPR missteps that ended in the resignation of Vivian Schiller didn’t help, either. But as some congressional detractors have pointed out, public stations have on their side the viewers, a powerful constituency that can press local representatives to save “Sesame Street,” as the debate is often framed, and the idea of zeroing out funding was stopped in the Senate. This time around, PBS also can point to some genuine hits, like “Downton Abbey” and “Sherlock,” as added reason not to cut funding for stations who would not be able to afford the license fees to carry such shows, although the network is anxious to point to educational and arts programming that commercial broadcast and cable networks probably never would carry.
Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, said, “While we understand the many difficult decisions appropriators must make and that the nation is facing challenging economic times, if enacted, such drastic cuts in federal funding could have a devastating effect on public television stations, especially those in rural areas.
“Last year, a study conducted by the bi-partisan research team of Hart/American Viewpoint found overwhelming public opposotion to the elimination of government funding of public broadcasting, with nearly 70% of voters — across the political spectrum — opposing such a cut.
“We urge members of Congress to listen to the American public, which consistently support the federal investment in public broadcasting.”
Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB, said, “This House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill would clearly begin the elimination of CPB funding. This action is in stark contrast to the overwhelming trust and value the American people place in our country’s public broadcasting service. ”
Gary Knell, NPR’s president and CEO, said, “We are disappointed and troubled by these proposals and we and our member stations are actively engaging with members of Congress to explain the damage it would do to public radio and television stations if enacted. Over 34 million people rely on public radio stations every week for fact-based, independent news they can trust, for civic and civil dialogue, and for music and cultural programming that can’t be found anywhere else.”