Public media again in bull’s-eye in president’s FY19 plans

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President Trump once again aims to end public broadcasting funding in his draft budget for fiscal year 2019, released Monday. The proposal would rescind all but $15 million of CPB’s funding of $445 million over the next two years.

Support for an update of public broadcasting’s interconnection system would also fall to zero from $50 million. Ready To Learn, the public TV preschool education program, would end in FY19 after receiving $26 million in FY18.

Trump proposed similar cuts for fiscal year 2020 in his FY18 budget. The House and Senate have both approved level funding of $445 million for CPB in FY2020.

In the budget released Monday, Trump requested that CPB get $15.5 million in FY19 and $15 million in FY20 “to conduct an orderly transition away from federal funding.” CPB’s appropriation is forward-funded by two years.

As justification for the cuts, the document said that public broadcasters receive the bulk of support from nonfederal sources.

“This private fundraising has proven durable, negating the need for continued federal subsidies,” it said. “Services such as PBS and NPR, which receive funding from CPB, could make up the shortfall by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations and members.”

Public broadcasting leaders said in statements that they will continue to stress the system’s importance to Congress and the American people. “Americans place great value on having universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services, provided commercial free and free of charge,” said CPB President Pat Harrison.

Harrison added that there is “no viable substitute for federal funding” and that its elimination “would at first devastate, and then ultimately destroy public media’s ability to provide early childhood content, life-saving emergency alerts and public affairs programs.”

Pat Butler, president of America’s Public Television Stations, said that “characterizing our work as simply another television channel misses the fact that we provide the only preschool education for more than half of America’s children, that we are the backbone of public safety communications networks at the local, state and national levels, and that we do more to equip America’s citizens to do the hard work of democracy than anyone else.”

And PBS President Paula Kerger said that “PBS, our 350 member stations and our legions of local supporters will continue to remind leaders in Washington of the significant benefits the public receives in return for federal funding, a modest investment of about $1.35 per citizen per year, which include school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, public safety communications and lifelong learning.”

In addition to CPB’s funding fall-0ff, other agencies that back public media projects are zeroed out in the draft.

The proposal instructs two federal arts agencies that fund public media projects, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, to “begin shutting down.” Each received $150 million in FY17. NEA would fall to $29 million; NEH would receive $42 million. Trump had previously sought those same amounts in his FY18 budget to allow NEA and NEH to shut down; Congress gave each a $2 million boost.

The document moves to Congress for debate and approval.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that a spending bill signed in May 2017 had restored fiscal year 2020 funds for CPB. The bill provided level funding for FY19.

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