Arts gains a bit in Obama budget

Public b'casting funding would stay the same

President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2013 gives a slight increase to government arts funding and maintains the level of federal support to public broadcasting.

The budget plan, unveiled Monday, also includes more money to the Department of Justice’s anti-piracy efforts, a boost of $5 million to $40 million. A similar boost was proposed last year but ultmately dropped in the wrangling over spending cuts.

Obama has proposed $154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, up from $146 million in 2012. The figure includes a $6.7 million increase in grants, with $2.7 million going to state arts organizations and $4 million to nonprofits organizations across the country. The figure also includes $3 million for the expenses that will be incurred when the NEA moves from the Old Post Office Building, slated for renovation. The agency also said that it will cut administrative and program support expenses by $1.5 million.

A similar increase in the annual budget was recommended for the NEA’s sister org, the National Endowment for the Humanities.

After a bruising budget battle last year over funding for public broadcasting, Obama’s budget retains funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at $445 million. The figure actually is for fiscal year 2015, as the CPB goes through an “advanced appropriation” cycle to act as a kind of firewall to prevent funding from being cut immediately as a way of influencing content.

Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB, said the request “reaffirms that federal funding for public media is a vital investment, one that continues to deliver proven value and service to our country.”

Patrick Butler, the president and CEO of the Assn. for Public Television Stations, also expressed satisfaction at the request, but noted that the budget proposes consolidating education programs of Ready to Learn, aimed at building the reading skills of children between 2 and 8. He also said they were “disappointed” by a proposed elimination of a program to ensure that rural communities have access to public TV following the digital TV conversion.

“Public television did not expect immunity from the budget curts that had been required across the government, and the overall federal investment in public television has been reduced by more than 10% in the past two years,” Butler said.

Obama’s budget also includes the FCC’s request of $346.8 million, down slightly from the amount that it sought for 2012. The FCC outlay includes money to accelerate the adoption of broadband across the country. And the FCC’s plan also proposes spectrum fees, as a means of nudging license holders to give up their unused spectrum and put it up for auction, ostensibly to meet the demand for wireless services. Although the FCC says that the plan would raise $4.8 billion over the next decade, past proposals have not gotten anywhere on Capitol Hill.