Percentages cited above are streamlined versions of the percentages-of-percentages specified by legislation.
Congress limited CPB’s discretion in spending the federal appropriation. The corporation’s authorizing law imposes a budget allocation formula that divides the appropriation as indicated in the chart.
Dividing CPB funds between TV and radio had been a repeated struggle until 1981, when Congress imposed a peace-making formula proposed by Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), chair of the House authorizing subcommittee. The 75-25 percentage split between TV and radio was based on experience, though with public radio’s later growth, it made radio stations more dependent on private-sector fundraising than public TV is.
Robben Fleming, then president of CPB, complained that the formula “emasculates” CPB, and his successors periodically have objected to the loss of discretion over spending.
Outside the formula, CPB has had periodic special appropriations to upgrade its satellite systems, separate Department of Education funding for Ready to Learn children’s programming and major Annenberg Foundation donations for educational programs and services.
How the law lays out the formula
Excerpt from CPB’s authorizing law: an update of the updated Public Broadcasting Act, boldface and colored boxes added:
(i) The Corporation shall establish an annual budget for use in allocating amounts from the Fund. Of the amounts appropriated into the Fund available for allocation for any fiscal year —
CPB administrative costs
(I) $10,200,000 shall be available for the administrative expenses of the Corporation for fiscal year 1989, and for each succeeding fiscal year the amount which shall be available for such administrative expenses shall be the sum of the amount made available to the Corporation under this subclause for such expenses in the preceding fiscal year plus the greater of 4 percent of such amount or a percentage of such amount equal to the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index, except that none of the amounts allocated under subclauses (II), (III), and (IV) and clause (v) shall be used for any administrative expenses of the Corporation and not more than 5 percent of all the amounts appropriated into the Fund available for allocation for any fiscal year shall be available for such administrative expenses;
System support costs, including satellite and training
(II) 6 percent of such amounts shall be available for expenses incurred by the Corporation for capital costs relating to telecommunications satellites, the payment of programming royalties and other fees, the costs of interconnection facilities and operations (as provided in clause (iv)(I)), and grants which the Corporation may make for assistance to stations that broadcast programs in languages other than English or for assistance in the provision of affordable training programs for employees at public broadcast stations, and if the available funding level permits, for projects and activities that will enhance public broadcasting;
Splitting the rest between TV and radio
(III) 75 percent of the remainder (after allocations are made under subclause (I) and subclause (II)) shall be allocated in accordance with clause (ii); and
(IV) 25 percent of such remainder shall be allocated in accordance with clause (iii).
Splitting public TV’s share between local control and CPB discretion
(ii) Of the amounts allocated under clause (i)(III) for any fiscal year—
(I) 75 percent of such amounts shall be available for distribution among the licensees and permittees of public television stations pursuant to paragraph (6)(B); and
(II) 25 percent of such amounts shall be available for distribution under subparagraph (B)(i), and in accordance with any plan implemented under paragraph (6)(A), for national public television programming.
Splitting public radio’s share between station control and CPB discretion
(iii) Of the amounts allocated under clause (i)(IV) for any fiscal year—
(I) 70 percent of such amounts shall be available for distribution among the licensees and permittees of public radio stations pursuant to paragraph (6)(B);
(II) 7 percent of such amounts shall be available for distribution under subparagraph (B)(i) for public radio programming; and
(III) 23 percent of such amounts shall be available for distribution among the licensees and permittees of public radio stations pursuant to paragraph (6)(B), solely to be used for acquiring or producing programming that is to be distributed nationally and is designed to serve the needs of a national audience.
(I) From the amount provided pursuant to clause (i)(II), the Corporation shall defray an amount equal to 50 percent of the total costs of interconnection facilities and operations to facilitate the availability of public television and radio programs among public broadcast stations.
(II) Of the amounts received as the result of any contract, lease agreement, or any other arrangement under which the Corporation directly or indirectly makes available interconnection facilities, 50 percent of such amounts shall be distributed to the licensees and permittees of public television stations and public radio stations. The Corporation shall not have any authority to establish any requirements, guidelines, or limitations with respect to the use of such amounts by such licensees and permittees.
(v) Of the interest on the amounts appropriated into the Fund which is available for allocation for any fiscal year—
(I) 75 percent shall be available for distribution for the purposes referred to in clause (ii)(II); and
(II) 25 percent shall be available for distribution for the purposes referred to in clause (iii)(II) and (III).