House committee backs funds for Ready To Learn, passes over interconnection

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The House Appropriations Committee has recommended support for public TV’s Ready To Learn in fiscal year 2018 but declined to provide for public broadcasting’s interconnection.

The committee report to the full House on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill also included new language advising CPB on its priorities.

In the report, released Tuesday, the panel recommended $25.7 million for Ready To Learn from the Department of Education. Public broadcasters had requested $30 million for the early literacy initiative in FY18.

Public broadcasters wanted $50 million in FY18 for interconnection, which would replace the system’s aging content distribution system with a cloud-based model. The report said the committee “does not provide funding” for interconnection and noted that sum as cost savings over the FY17 level for total public broadcasting support.

Interconnection and Ready To Learn were not mentioned in the draft bill released Wednesday, which includes $445 million for CPB in FY20.

As usual, the report contained language encouraging public broadcasting’s work to reach underserved audiences, particularly through the National Minority Consortia.

But this year the committee also noted that it “values the contributions of public television and radio stations in serving the needs of their local communities.” That public signal of support comes after President Trump’s budget recommended slicing CPB’s outlay to $30 million in FY18 to shut itself down.

The report also said that CPB should “encourage” federally funded content distributed by national organizations “to focus on rural American (sic), civic discourse and engagement, and life-long learning.”

“This content should reflect America’s increasing diversity, including age, ethnicity, race, gender, socio-economic background, geography and points of view,” it noted.

The committee also reminded CPB that local stations “should continue to have discretion on what content to broadcast from the national organizations.”

A CPB spokesperson declined comment on the new language.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct the amount of CPB’s appropriation.