The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio are pushing back on President Trump’s proposal to eliminate their funding.
Trump’s budget blueprint, released Thursday, would cut government support to the broadcasters -- among a slew of other independent agencies -- in an effort to “move the Nation toward fiscal responsibility” and “redefine the proper role of the federal government.”
Meanwhile, the proposals would ramp up defense spending and commit more than $4 billion for construction of a border wall with Mexico.
CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that formed PBS and NPR in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, said Thursday that the cuts would “begin the collapse of the public media system itself.”
The federal government appropriates around $455 million to the CPB each year. It serves as the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting by supporting the operations of nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide.
“There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services,” Patricia Harrison, president and chief executive of the CPB, said in a statement.
Eliminating federal funding would “initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history and promoting civil discussions — all for Americans in both rural and urban communities,” she added.
Costing approximately $1.35 per citizen per year, public media, Harrison said, “is one of America’s best investments,” paying huge dividends to every American.
“This vital investment strengthens our communities. It is especially critical for those living in small towns and in rural and underserved areas,” she said, noting that the CPB provides children’s educational content and ensures public safety and homeland security through emergency alerts.
“Viewers and listeners appreciate that public media is noncommercial and available for free to all Americans. We will work with the new administration and Congress in raising awareness that elimination of federal funding to CPB begins the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service.”
Meanwhile, NPR gets about 9% of its budget through federal appropriations via the CPB and an additional 5% from federal and local governments. Its budget relies most heavily on contributions from listeners and local and corporate sponsorships. But the CPB’s grants enable stations to license programming and stay on public airwaves, according to CNN.
On Wednesday, the multi-platform radio service said that it had hit an all-time high with its broadcast audience, counting 37.4 million station listeners -- the largest in NPR’s history.
“At a time when many news organizations have been forced to contract, NPR is expanding coverage and focusing resources on the local and national issues that listeners care about,” said Michael Oreskes, NPR’s senior vice president of news and editorial director. “Now, more and more people are turning to NPR as their source for unbiased fact-based news.”
PBS -- one of the brands distributed and also funded by the CPB as well as member station dues, government agencies and private donors -- geared up for another fight with Congress to maintain funding. It’s an ongoing battle the public broadcasters have fought since being established.
“PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” PBS President Paula Kerger said Thursday.
“We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting.”
Trump’s plan still has to be approved by Congress to move forward.
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