PBS proposes 4% increase in station dues to balance 2025 budget

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PBS is requesting a 4% station dues increase in its proposed budget for fiscal year 2025.

The preliminary budget, presented during a PBS board meeting Wednesday, would generate a total of $227 million in station assessments, an increase of $8.7 million from fiscal 2024.

The board voted to distribute the proposal to stations for feedback. A vote on the final budget will be taken at its June meeting.

“In order to deliver a balanced budget, the proposed budget includes a 4% dues increase, which is in line with inflation,” said PBS President Paula Kerger during the meeting. “At this funding level, station contributions as a percentage of the PBS budget are virtually flat.” 

PBS projects that its proposed budget for FY25 will break even at $373.4 million, said Catherine Robb, chair of the board’s finance committee, during Wednesday’s meeting. That’s a $1.2 million increase from the FY24 budget approved by the board last June.

PBS is proposing to invest in “key areas” including programs that focus on climate and science, news and public affairs, the arts, history and PBS Kids, Robb said. The budget also supports improvements to PBS Passport, the membership streaming service, such as “enhancing the user experience, growing the content library, spotlighting local content and improving data collection.”

The budget supports goals to add more local livestreams and improve search functionality so users can find local content, Robb said. Late last year, several station leaders told Current that improving the streaming experience for PBS viewers is paramount to public television’s future success.

PBS also proposes to invest $7.6 million of its own funds for “strategic priorities,” Robb said. That pool of funds would include $3.2 million from board-designated net assets and $4.4 million from returns from PBS’ long-term investment portfolio that will be transferred into the operating budget. In fiscal 2024, PBS allocated $14.4 million of its own funds for data security, local linear feeds and Passport.

Kerger described the current market for media and streaming services as filled with financial challenges. Her goal is to reduce PBS’ reliance on reserve funds while also finding ways to increase revenue from grant funding, she said.

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