The co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama in February to help balance the budget, are recommending an end to CPB funding as of 2015, according to a draft report released today (Nov. 10). The report also advises zeroing out the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) and the Agriculture Department’s pubcasting grant program. “The current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been,” the draft says, and cutting it would save nearly $500 million in 2015.
The 50-page explanation of proposals insists that “everything must be on the table” for cuts or elimination.
Commission co-chairs are Erskine Bowles, former President Clinton’s chief of staff, and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. Bowles, University of North Carolina president, was recently involved in the controversial decision by UNC-TV, licensed to the state university system, to turn over reporting documents to the state legislature (Current, July 26, 2010).
The commission’s final report, due Dec. 1, will require the approval of at least 14 of the commission’s 18 members. The panel meets monthly when Congress in session; videos of meetings are posted for online viewing.
CPB issued this statement following the draft’s release:
As the steward of the federal investment in public media, CPB strongly disagrees with the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, who propose without justification to completely eliminate funding for CPB and other public broadcasting programs.
American public broadcasting represents a model public-private partnership. The federal investment represents an average of 15 percent of funding for the more than 1,100 public radio and television stations around the country, and stations use this investment to raise funds from the communities they serve. In some cases, especially in rural and low-income areas, public broadcasting serves as a lifeline of content, information and services to the community. Therefore, the percentage of federal funding is higher in these regions. Public television and radio stations deliver free, universally available, non-commercial, high-quality programming and services to communities throughout the country.
Each month, PBS reaches more than 118 million people through television and nearly 21 million people online. Approximately 37 million listen to public radio each week. Public radio programming covers news and public affairs, science, history, education and the arts. For decades public television has served as a safe place for kids to learn — an option more important than ever for parents today. Every month, 5.8 million children access the educational website, PBS Kids Go!. In fact, PBS Kids
is the No. 1 educational media brand, and research shows that PBS content plays an essential role in helping to close the early literacy gap for the most disadvantaged children.
From a yearly federal investment amounting to $1.35 per American, public broadcasting returns six times that amount in programming and services, creating 17,000 jobs in the American economy.
This important investment, through CPB and the other public broadcasting programs, should be supported for the benefit, education and enrichment of all Americans.
The National Commission’s proposal to eliminate federal funding for public media would have a profound and detrimental impact on all Americans. Public radio is the last remaining source of independent, non-commercial and thought-provoking broadcast media in the country – and in some small towns and communities, is the only remaining source of free, accessible local, national and international news and information, music and cultural programming. Public radio stations are located in nearly every major city and small town delivering vital and highly trusted news and information to 37 million Americans each week – reaching more citizens than the circulation of the top 120 national newspapers combined.
In a time of media decline, especially in local, international and investigative reporting, public radio’s role in fostering an informed society has never been as critical as it is today. The public radio audience is one of the few in media that has consistently grown – doubling in the last decade alone.
Federal funding has been a central component of public radio stations’ ability to serve audiences across the country. It’s imperative for funding to continue to ensure that this essential tool of democracy survives and thrives well into the future.
Statement from the Association of Public Television Stations:
APTS is deeply troubled by yesterday’s recommendation from the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to eliminate funding for public broadcasting programs and services.
“APTS ardently opposes the recommendations of the co-chairs of the Fiscal Commission. Americans depend on programs and services provided by local public television stations to educate their children and stay informed on critical issues in their communities,” said APTS Interim President and CEO Lonna Thompson. “The elimination of federal funding would significantly impact local stations, particularly small rural stations, forcing them to go dark, hurting their communities and eradicating vital services.”
For the seventh consecutive year of the Roper poll, Americans ranked public television as the nation’s most trusted institution, and second in tax value among 20 federally funded services, behind only military defense. The American public believes that federal funding for public television is a wise investment.
Through federal funding, public television stations have created the most effective public/private partnership in our nation. Local stations have enhanced the educational successes of our students at a time when American educational achievement is falling behind other nations. Public television is also delivering critical services around job training, adult education and public safety that would not otherwise be available without the government partnership.
Thompson continued, “The co-chairs of the Commission also recommended eliminating the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) and Rural Utilities Service Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program (RUS Digital), erroneously labeling these programs as duplicative. PTFP and RUS Digital are essential programs to the American people. Funding through these programs serves two compelling government interests: creating and improving infrastructure and new jobs, and ensuring that rural communities are able to share in the fruits of the digital age.”
Thompson concluded, “The investment in public broadcasting by the federal government is an investment in the American people. Americans deserve the valuable programming and services local public television stations provide over-the-air, on-line and on-the-ground to communities across our country.”