House leader demands a plan; Senate backs higher numbers

Having emerged from the first 100 days of the 104th Congress with most of its advance funding intact, public broadcasting is entering the most crucial stage in renegotiating its relationship with the lawmakers. Rep. Jack Fields (R-Tex.), chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee, moved up the schedule for that stage in an April 5 meeting with top pubcasters, asking them to submit by the end of the month their plans for replacing the annual CPB appropriations that congressional Republicans want to eliminate. The Senate, meanwhile, declined to accept House leadership, voting April 6 to continue CPB funding at this year’s $285.6 million level for the next two years. CPB funding was one of the major sticking points that delayed final action on the Senate bill, as conservative Republicans sought bigger cuts and Democrats pushed for smaller ones. The legislation goes next to a House-Senate conference committee, which will have to hammer out substantial differences in the two chambers’ proposed cuts for CPB and other programs. (The conference will be scheduled after the House returns from recess May 1; the Senate returns a week earlier.)

While substantial CPB funding for fiscal years 1996 and 1997 seems likely, the big question is now whether the field will receive any federal aid at all in 1998 and beyond.