WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s newly unveiled 2019 budget again proposes the elimination of funding for the three major entities that award federal funding for public broadcasting and the arts: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The $4.4 trillion budget proposal is not much of a surprise to public TV and arts advocates, as Trump’s 2018 budget also called for zeroing out such funding. Instead, funding survived, which is a testament to just how much of a wish-list the White House budget really is, as opposed to something that will actually gain traction on Capitol Hill.
The rationale that the White House makes for eliminating the federal funding is that the outlay can be made up for by private donations and grants at the state level.
“CPB funding comprises about 15% of the total amount spent on public broadcasting, with the remainder coming from non-federal sources, with many large stations raising an even greater share,” the budget states. “This private fundraising has proven durable, negating the need for continued federal subsidies.
“Services such as PBS and NPR, which receive funding from CPB, could make up the shortfall by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations, and members. In addition, alternatives to PBS and NPR programming have grown substantially since CPB was first established in 1967, greatly reducing the need for publicly-funded programming options,” the budget reads.
CPB has received about $445 million in federal funding in recent years. The organization distributes grants to public stations, NPR and PBS.
“Public broadcasting has earned bipartisan congressional support over the years thanks to the value we provide to taxpayers,” PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said in a statement.
She said the network and its 350 member stations and local supporters “will continue to remind leaders in Washington of the significant benefits the public receives in return for federal funding, a modest investment of about $1.35 per citizen per year.”
The NEA and NEH have each received about $150 million in federal funding, but they too have survived. In fact, their budgets increased slightly last year as Congress has funded the government through a series of short-term continuing resolutions.
Dana Gioia, who chaired the NEA under President George W. Bush, predicted several weeks ago that the arts funding would remain safe this year.
“The federal budget is the creation of the House of Representatives,” he wrote via email. “The House rejected Trump’s art cuts for the current year’s budget. They will reject them again. There is bipartisan agreement on supporting the NEA and NEH. There was no controversy whatsoever this past year in Congress. The Republican leadership supports the cultural agencies, as, of course, does the Democratic leadership. The fuss was all in the press.”
He added, “Whatever Trump recommends will not change the secure status quo.”
In the meantime, Jane Chu, an Obama nominee, has continued to serve as chair of the NEA, and the Trump administration has yet to put forward a successor. At the NEH, senior deputy chairman Jon Parrish Peede, has been serving as acting chair.
Robert Lynch, the CEO of Americans for the Arts, said in a statement that he was “troubled by the short-sightedness” of the the administration’s budget.
Patrick Butler, president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, said that they “will continue to make our case with the administration that characterizing our work as simply another television channel misses the fact that we provide the only preschool education for more than half of America’s children, that we are the backbone of public safety communications networks at the local, state and national levels, and that we do more to equip America’s citizens to do the hard work of democracy than anyone else.
“Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, and the overwhelming majority of their constituents, understand these contributions, and our impressive return on the investment of one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget, very well.”