NPR issued this statement after the House voted today (March 17) to keep stations from spending federal money on dues or programming:
Today, NPR expressed grave concern about the impact of the approval of H.R. 1076 on the entire public radio system – hundreds of stations, dozens of program producers and the communities that rely on them every week. The bill is a direct effort to weaken public radio that would ultimately choke local stations’ ability to serve their audiences.
Many small-budget stations would be placed in a serious financial bind. They would no longer be allowed to purchase any programming with federal funds. The communities they serve would be unable to provide sufficient support to fill that gap, leaving these stations no options for maintaining service.
“At a time when other news organizations are cutting back and the voices of pundits are drowning out fact-based reporting and thoughtful analysis, NPR and public radio stations are delivering in-depth news and information respectfully and with civility. It would be a tragedy for America to lose this national treasure,” said Joyce Slocum, interim CEO.
The bill stunts the growth of new, diverse programming and threatens the continuation of existing efforts to serve diverse audiences by clamping down on CPB’s Program Fund. That fund has supported the work of Native American (Koahnik Public Media Native Voice 1), Latino (Radio Bilingue) and independent producers (This I Believe, StoryCorps).
The bill also prohibits the use of federal funds to develop new programs. Nearly every nationally distributed public radio program has received a CPB grant, usually at start-up. (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, This American Life, and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! to name a few). Without that seed money, programs that nearly 38 million public radio listeners rely on each week would never have launched.
The legislation precludes NPR from competing for federal grants that provide for investments in technology and disability access. These grants, administered by NPR on behalf of public radio, have propelled public radio’s progress in digital media, and in systems for emergency communications during disasters and for the issuance of Amber Alerts.
The ban on federal funding threatens the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS), the distribution hub for all of public radio programming to audiences all across America. PRSS would be deprived of funds for future capital improvement projects, which are essential to maintain this fundamental broadcast infrastructure.
Finally, the bill limits collaboration among stations that today are sharing newsgathering and programming, forcing these stations into isolation and limiting their ability to work together in the public interest.