Public television’s strongest case for preserving tax-based support for stations and CPB centers on informing political leaders about the full range of public-service work that stations deliver to local communities, particularly in the field of education, according to the field’s lead advocates in Washington, D.C.
The Association of Public Television Stations handed out Champions of Public Broadcasting awards during its Public Media Summit in Washington, D.C., Feb 24–26, recognizing Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Oregon Rep. Greg Walden (R). APTS also gave EDGE Awards to Twin Cities Public Television and New Jersey’s NJTV and recognized individuals with Advocacy Awards. Mikulski, who replaced recently deceased Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been an ardent defender of public broadcasting in the Senate and was a vocal defender of the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program before it was eliminated in 2011. As chair of the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet, Walden has helped secure federal aid for public broadcasters to help defer costs related to spectrum legislation. As he accepted his award, he told summit attendees that increased competition from cable and digital channels has made public TV less relevant to television viewers, and he suggested that public broadcasters support cuts to government-entitlement programs in order to salvage their own funding.
A radio broadcaster-turned lawmaker who chairs a key House subcommittee with oversight of CPB delivered a pointed critique to public TV station execs about their prospects for preserving federal aid in the 113th Congress. During a Feb. 26 breakfast hosted by the Association of Public Television Stations at the Library of Congress, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden (R) warned a roomful of station executives that they face an uphill battle in rebuilding bipartisan support for the field. Republican views of public broadcasting are colored by negative baggage carried over from the 2010-11 political scandals over NPR, and the notion that increased competition from cable and digital channels has made public TV less relevant to television viewers, Walden said. The event, part of APTS’s annual Public Media Summit, celebrated Walden as a “Champion of Public Broadcasting,” and the lawmaker used the occasion to deliver what APTS President Patrick Butler later called “tough love.”
Walden referred to recommendations of a 2007 Government Accountability Office report on public TV’s financing to make his point.