Pubcasters Face Steep Funding Cuts

Public broadcasting is not happy with deep cuts proposed by the Administration in the FY 2007 budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting --cuts that could affect digital conversion funding and eliminate the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, a funding source for stations converting to digital and still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Bush Administration proposes rescinding $53.5 million from the $400 million already appropriated by Congress for FY 2007 and cutting $50 million rescission from the $400 million already appropriated by Congress for FY 2008. The budget proposal includes no advance appropriation for FY 2009 and no additional funding in FY 2007 for digital conversion or television interconnection, however CPB said it could use a portion of its FY 2007 regular appropriation for these purposes.

"By submitting a budget proposal with cuts of this magnitude, the Administration is completely ignoring the will of the American people as they expressed it quite vocally last June," said John Lawson, president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS). "In now renewing the attack on public broadcasting, the Administration is saying the opinions of the American people do not matter."

Characterizing the cuts as "devastating," Lawson said the stations will work together with its supporters across the country to fight these cuts vigorously.

If enacted, these FY 2007 funding levels would represent a 24.7 percent reduction from CPB's FY 2006 levels, and would be felt in all CPB programs, including station Community Service Grants, the basic grant each station gets if they meet minimum qualifications, the organization said.

CPB President/CEO Patricia de Stacy Harrison said the organization is "very disappointed" at the recommended funding levels while the Association of Public Television Stations said in a statement "the Administration is charging ahead in laying the foundation for the elimination of public broadcasting in America."

The budget proposal is the start of a long process. Last year, the Administration requested that CPB's already-enacted $400 million for FY 2006 be cut to $390 million, with no additional funds for digital conversion or interconnection. After much lobbying by public broadcasting, Congress decided to fund CPB in FY 2006 at $396 million, with $30 million for digital and $35 million for interconnection, or a total of $461 million.

This week CPB is asking Congress for a $430 million advance appropriation for FY 2009; and $40 million for digital conversion and $36 million for television interconnection.

Melissa Sullivan contributed to this report.

(Radio World)