Congress host to showdown over public broadcasting

Public broadcasting is caught up in politics again. Several bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives seek to eliminate all funding for public broadcasting, but President Barack Obama’s budget seeks to increase it.

The Republican measures appear to be political and not meaningful in terms of balancing the federal budget; the total for both radio and TV is about $400 million. A public broadcasting advocacy group just published figures that showed its costs about $1.35 a year per person to fund public broadcasting institutions in the United States. More than 70 percent of that funding goes to local stations throughout the country, many in rural areas with few sources of news and original programming. Public broadcasting serves 170 million Americans each month.

Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget submission to Congress included $451 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for the two-year advance appropriation for the 2014 fiscal year, an increase of $6 million over fiscal year 2013 funding. It is difficult to determine how much of public media is funded by the government, however, because most public stations receive money from various sources, including the public.

Members of the Republican Study Committee released a report recently vowing to trim $2.5 trillion from the budget over 10 years. Funding for public broadcasting was among the budget items proposed for steep cuts.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA, praised the president for presenting a budget proposal that preserves public broadcasting.

“The president’s budget wisely increases funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps to support the production of high-quality, informative and educational programming produced by locally owned and operated public television and radio stations reaching virtually every household in our country," Markey said.

Josh Stearns, associate program director for the Free Press Action Fund, said the Republican cuts are an attack on independent journalism that would leave local communities across the country with fewer sources of news and information.

“While newspapers and broadcasters around the nation shed jobs and reduce local reporting at an alarming rate, public broadcasters have expanded their investment in reporting,” Stearns said. “While schools face budget cuts, public broadcasters have improved children’s programming, and while commercial television has invested in reality TV, public broadcasting continues its commitment to quality entertainment and the arts. All of that is at risk now.”