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. The Senate followed at 6 p.m. Thursday. House officials planned to forward the bill to the President for his expected signature early this week, although officials were still processing the bill as Current went to press Monday night.
Key elements of the new authorization bill include:
Funding: Authorizes CPB at $245 million for fiscal 1991, $265 million for fiscal 1992, and $285 million for fiscal 1993, plus $200 million to fund satellite replacement; the bill also authorizes funding for the Commerce Department’s public telecommunications facilities program, which funds capital equipment for stations, at $36 million for fiscal 1989, $39 million for fiscal 1900, and $42 million for fiscal 1991.
CPB TV Program Fund: Leaves CPB’s television program fund in place, but requires the corporation to work with the public TV system to determine how best to distribute CPB’s national public TV funds. Explanatory language accompanying the bill suggests that public TV adopt a plan similar to public radio’s federal funding distribution plan, which passes the money through to stations (see below). CPB must submit a plan to Congress by January 31, 1990; it would go into effect in fiscal 1991.
Public radio: Codifies into law the present system for distributing public radio’s federal programming money, which passes on to stations 93 percent of CPB appropriations earmarked for radio. The bill also directs CPB to help public radio expand its service.
Interest income: Directs CPB to use its income from interest on the federal appropriation for national pro÷ gramming, with 75 percent going to TV and 25 percent to radio.
Independent production service: Directs CPB to provide funding for an Independent Production Service [later renamed Independent Television Service]. Language accompanying the bill tells CPB to provide $6 million a year for the first three years of the service, plus funding for administration and overhead.
Administrative expenses: Allocates $10.2 million for administrative expenses in fiscal 1989 and authorizes annual increases of 4 percent or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is greater. An overall administrative-expenses cap of 5 percent of the annual appropriation remains.
Grants: Directs CPB to make grants, not contracts, for programs.
Matching funds: Increases the proportion of non-federal funding stations must raise to receive federal money from 2:1 to 2.5:1.
Minorities: The bill requires CPB to assess the needs of minority audiences and report to Congress annually beginning in July 1989. The bill also emphasizes that public broadcasting stations must comply with current Equal Employment Opportunity regulations.
Audit of CPB: The report language says Congress intends to ask the Government Accounting Office to audit CPB’s administrative expenses and its management of system support money and report to Congress.