Federal appropriations to public broadcasting will end at close of business, Sept. 30, 2000, under the House Republican leadership’s proposal introduced Feb. 28 by Rep. Jack Fields (R-Tex.). The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would live on, however, as overseer of a new trust fund endowed through the auction of vacant noncommercial TV channels. In the meantime, Fields’ Public Broadcasting Self-Sufficiency Act of 1996 delays panic in the field by authorizing annual sums of $250 million a year for fiscal years 1998, 1999 and 2000, and maintaining the traditional 75/25 split between public TV and public radio for these next few years.
A professional campaign firm has begun setting up a Citizens’ Committee for Public Broadcasting to coordinate grassroots support for “full funding” of CPB. Proposed and organized by a New York consumer rights lawyer, Donald Ross, the committee has startup funding from about five major public TV stations, Ross says. The initiative is the latest in a long line of citizen interventions to support or protect public broadcasting. Separate plans for a big-name commission of prominent citizens to resolve “serious issues” in the field’s future were announced by CPB Chairman Henry Cauthen two weeks ago, but have been delayed, according to CPB. The citizen’s committee’s handful of staffers, meanwhile, is starting to recruit field activists and organizers out of the downtown Washington branch office of Ross’s firm, M&R Strategic Services.