Public stations gather in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for DTV funds

The APTS will address three key areas this week: digital, digital and digital!
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Hundreds of public television stations from across the country have come to the nation's capital this week to lobby members of Congress for continued support of public broadcasting in the digital era.

The broadcasters, coming off a successful campaign to sustain funding in the FY2003 budget, must now try to sustain their momentum for FY2004. The group of public stations has hired a lobbying firm to help secure a share of funds appropriated for higher education. Earlier this month, the Association of Public Televisions Stations (APTS) succeeded in minimizing reductions from their requested increased appropriations for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to only 0.65 percent, saving as much as $12.6 million in federal funding for Community Service Grants to public television and radio stations. APTS also persuaded Congress to double funding for the digital conversion of public stations. See below for actual funding levels.

APTS President John Lawson said public broadcasting is facing the most complex legislative agenda in memory. "We are coming out of a very difficult appropriations season in FY2003 with impressive results - public broadcasting secured funding increases at a time when many federal programs saw reductions in their funding."

The task confronting APTS member stations, Lawson said, is to build upon the momentum that has been generated with members of the 108th Congress. "While we have a broad legislative agenda before the 108th Congress, there are three key areas that we will address (this) week: digital, digital and digital!

"First, we need to continue to secure federal funding for the digital transition in order to realize the many services local digital public television stations will be able to offer, particularly in education and homeland security," he said.

"Second, we need continued funding for digital content. We are working with a diverse group of partners to secure funding for collaborations focused on higher education, workforce skills and adult literacy. And finally, we need to ensure that every American consumer can reap the benefits of the digital transition by ensuring cable carriage of all of public television stations' free services."

To better understand this important issue, CPB funding information from the association’s Web site is summarized in the table below. The table details both acutal funding amounts and CPB’s requests for increased funding. According to that information, CPB has enjoyed actual increases in funding of $10 million dollars per year for several years. This year’s CPB request represents a $45 million increase over FY2002 actual funding. It’s important to note that the “cuts” mentioned by Mr. Lawson are not actual cuts in funding, but rather reductions in CPB’s increased requests.

For instance, this year, CPB requested $137 million dollars to convert non-commerical stations to digital. That is 550 percent more than what the agency was awarded for FY2003. In addition, CPB has requested a 250 percent increase in PTFP funding for the same period.

Additional information on CPB’s proposed spending plans are available at www.apts.org.

CPB spending plans

FY2000 ActualFY2001 ActualFY2002 ActualFY2003 Administration RequestFY2003 CPB Request CPB regular $300M $340M $350M $365M $395M CPB Digital $0 $20M $25M $25M $137M NTIA/PTFP Equipment $26.5M $43.5M $43.5M $143.5M $110M PTFP Ready to Learn $16M $16M $22M $22M $24M Ready to Teach $8.4M $8.5M $12M ** $15M For more information visit www.apts.org.