Alaska public broadcasters lose state funding

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With a line-item veto to an appropriations bill Monday, Alaska’s governor eliminated the state’s funding for public broadcasters.

The bill signed by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy rescinded some of his previous cuts to the state budget after public pushback but did not spare cuts to public broadcasting. Legislators had approved more than $2.7 million in funding to public broadcasters in the bill. The amount was level with their funding in the previous fiscal year.

Mollie Kabler, executive director of Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc., told Current in July that a funding cut would likely prompt stations to reduce programming and staff. She said she did not expect any stations to go off the air the first year after losing state funding but that she is concerned about some stations’ surviving beyond the first year.

In light of the latest veto, Kabler told Current that Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc. is planning a November gathering of public broadcasting GMs in the state “to discussion collaborations, fundraising and capacity building together.” Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc. also helped stations negotiate FY20 programming fees and is assisting them with seeking alternative funding for replacing infrastructure, she said.

The governor’s office said in a press briefing about the vetoes that it recognizes public broadcasting’s “important role in Alaska, especially in our rural communities that have limited or no access to other forms of media.” But funding for public broadcasting “can no longer be sustained,” the briefing said.

“With access to grants, Federal funding, or other innovative sources of funding, we believe the Alaska Public Broadcasting, Inc., will continue to provide services to Alaskans and will prioritize its services so it reaches Alaskan communities that need news and information the most,” the briefing said.

The governor’s office said that the cuts will not affect the state’s emergency broadcasting systems and that rural satellite services “will not go away in FY2020.”

Dunleavy vetoed funding for public broadcasting from Alaska’s operating budget in June that had been approved by the state legislature. Legislators were unable to overturn the veto.

7 thoughts on “Alaska public broadcasters lose state funding

  1. There’s the line item veto in action. Enacting that was Alaska’s first mistake. The PBS station I worked for in the late 70’s faced a 30% budget cut due to a cut in instructional TV funding from the County Schools office. We went on with an off-cycle pledge drive which recouped the loss, and permanently doubled the member base.

  2. What’s particularly unfortunate about this is that it reverses the important legacy of the late Ted Stevens, long-time Republican Senator from Alaska, who forged the way for expanded pub broadcasting support in his home state. This had a significant impact on public funding for our industry across the nation. Senator Stevens understood the importance of public radio in small communities, and the role we play in tying those communities to each other and the nation. So sad to see that legacy utterly wiped out.

  3. This is an attempt to quash objective journalism and community voices. Public broadcasting has provided this vast area with stories and discussions that make sense of issues like Alaska Native rights, climate change, resource extraction policies, local government, education, science, etc. etc. This is a threat to some people in powerful positions.

    The good part remains, Alaskans are smart and resourceful. Public broadcasting nurtures civil discourse and won’t just fold up and go away. Changes will occur and hard choices will be made, but the signal will remain!

    Viva la radio!

    Lily Herwald
    Former General Manager KCAW-FM Sitka, Commissioner, State of Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission, Alaska Public Radio Network board member and Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc. board member.

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