The House and Senate resolved last-minute differences over public broadcasting's fiscal 1991-93 authorization bill and late last week passed the three-year, $800 million measure. The bill also makes a variety of other changes, including requiring the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to collaborate with the public TV system to develop a new plan for distributing CPB's national TV production money. The bill also requires CPB to establish a $6 million-a-year fund for independent productions. The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill October 7, but when it reached the House telecommunications subcommittee, Chairman Edward Markey objected to language requiring CPB to seek private funding to replace public broadcasting's aging satellite program delivery system. Both sides agreed to a diluted directive for CPB to submit a report to Congress on the "availability of private sector rather than federal financing.'' The House and Senate also agreed to postpone until October 1, 1989, a requirement that CPB devote its interest income to pro÷ gramming and provide producers with "grants'' instead of "contracts.''
With these final hurdles cleared, the House passed the bill without comment about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Having emerged from the first 100 days of the 104th Congress with most of its advance funding intact, public broadcasting is entering the most crucial stage in renegotiating its relationship with the lawmakers. Rep. Jack Fields (R-Tex.), chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee, moved up the schedule for that stage in an April 5 meeting with top pubcasters, asking them to submit by the end of the month their plans for replacing the annual CPB appropriations that congressional Republicans want to eliminate. The Senate, meanwhile, declined to accept House leadership, voting April 6 to continue CPB funding at this year's $285.6 million level for the next two years. CPB funding was one of the major sticking points that delayed final action on the Senate bill, as conservative Republicans sought bigger cuts and Democrats pushed for smaller ones. The legislation goes next to a House-Senate conference committee, which will have to hammer out substantial differences in the two chambers' proposed cuts for CPB and other programs. (The conference will be scheduled after the House returns from recess May 1; the Senate returns a week earlier.)
While substantial CPB funding for fiscal years 1996 and 1997 seems likely, the big question is now whether the field will receive any federal aid at all in 1998 and beyond.
It's time to privatize Congress. The federal subsidy of this playground for the rich is bleeding American taxpayers and adding to the deficit. Not only does Congress cost more than $60 million annually in direct salaries, but its staff, perks and infrastructure add hundreds of millions more. Why should all of us pay for an institution benefiting only the few? Each congressional candidate should seek sponsorship from a corporation or association willing to pay his campaign costs and, if elected, his salary and office expenses.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday approved a public broadcasting funding bill that would create a separate program service for independent producers and establish a board to evaluate public broadcasting's programming for minorities.
A month after the release of the first Carnegie Commission report, LBJ announced legislation to help pay for operations of public TV for the first time. These remarks appear in his health/education proposals to Congress, between the sections on adult illiteracy and computers in the classroom, leading off a section titled "Building for Tomorrow." Before the end of the year, Congress had expanded the bill to include public radio and Johnson was signing the Public Broadcasting Act into law. BUILDING FOR TOMORROW
In 1951, the Federal Communications Commission set aside the first 242 television channels for noncommercial broadcasting, declaring:
The public interest will be clearly served if these stations contribute significantly to the educational process of the Nation. The first educational television station went on the air in May 1953.