Citizens’ group organizes to back full CPB funding

A professional campaign firm has begun setting up a Citizens’ Committee for Public Broadcasting to coordinate grassroots support for “full funding” of CPB. Proposed and organized by a New York consumer rights lawyer, Donald Ross, the committee has startup funding from about five major public TV stations, Ross says. The initiative is the latest in a long line of citizen interventions to support or protect public broadcasting. Separate plans for a big-name commission of prominent citizens to resolve “serious issues” in the field’s future were announced by CPB Chairman Henry Cauthen two weeks ago, but have been delayed, according to CPB. The citizen’s committee’s handful of staffers, meanwhile, is starting to recruit field activists and organizers out of the downtown Washington branch office of Ross’s firm, M&R Strategic Services.

All those letters — what do they mean to Congress?

For an industry that has “elitist” planted on its back like a hard-to-reach sticky label, the most critical piece of public broadcasting’s campaign to save itself may be the grassroots response. Opponents of CPB funding in Congress complain they’re swamped with calls and some charge that pubcasters, because they get federal funds, can’t legally lobby. Stations argue that they are within their rights as long as they don’t use federal money to lobby. When constituent calls and letters reach a “critical mass,” they penetrate
even the toughest mind-sets in Congress, said Bond. “Constituents always can make a difference.