Gov. Barbour proposes end to state aid for Mississippi’s MPB

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Two-term Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour called for an end to state subsidies for Mississippi Public Broadcasting in a $5.5 billion fiscal 2012 spending proposal released yesterday.

Barbour, who acknowledged at his Nov. 15 news conference that he’s considering a bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, vowed to close the state’s $700 million deficit during his last year as governor, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

The budget proposal [PDF] reduces state spending an average of 8 percent, but targets MPB and the state’s arts and library commissions with cuts of 20 percent. Barbour recommends that MPB take a $1.5 million hit in its state appropriation next year, reducing its state aid to just over $6 million.

In a letter to Mississippi lawmakers that accompanied his proposal, Barbour recommended an end to state aid to MPB altogether. “Mississippi taxpayers should not continue subsidizing a television and radio network, so I recommend a sharp reduction in the appropriation for Mississippi Public Broadcasting,” he writes. “This decrease should begin a draw down in funding for MPB that will ultimately result in its operating entirely on private donations or revenues, except for educational programming used by and prepared by [the Mississippi Department of Education.]”

MPB received about $8.3 million in state aid in fiscal 2008 and has weathered successive cuts of 5 percent or less over the last several years. In July the state pubcaster was roiled by controversy when then-Executive Director Judith Lewis abruptly canceled Fresh Air, the NPR show produced by Philadelphia’s WHYY. Lewis, who cited the “salaciousness” of host Terry Gross in taking the show off the air, later rescheduled the program at 9 p.m. Lewis, a longtime friend of Gov. Barbour, resigned from MPB in September.