Public broadcasters and their supporters fired back over the
weekend following the release of a bill by the chairman of the House
Appropriations Committee that would cut out its funding.
The bill is the Republican's version of the continuing resolution
that would keep the government operating but take $100 billion out of its
budget, including all the funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting not
already obligated to be spent. Public broadcasting gets about 15% of its funding from the government.
"Of the funds made available for Corporation for Public
Broadcasting," read the bill, "the unobligated balance is rescinded. The
amounts included under the heading 'Corporation for Public Broadcasting' in
division D of Public Law 111-117 shall be applied to funds appropriated by this
division as follows: by substituting ‘‘$0'' for ‘‘$86,000,000''; by substituting
‘‘$0'' for ‘‘$25,000,000''; by substituting ‘‘$0'' for ‘‘$36,000,000''; and by
substituting ‘‘$0'' for ‘‘$25,000,000."
Republicans have been threatening to zero out funding, and
got some backing by the co-chairs of a committee created by the president to find
places to make tough cuts in the face of a tough economy.
But the president has said he did not agree with all the cuts.
"Federal funding for public media is a smart and
careful investment that continues to deliver proven benefits to the American
people at both a local and national level. It is a successful example of a
vital public-private partnership," said CPB in a statement.
"We understand that, in this difficult economic environment,
it is appropriate for Congress to carefully examine every federal expenditure
to ensure its continued value to the American public," said PBS President
Paula Kerger. "Legislation to eliminate funding for public broadcasting
overlooks the critical value that PBS member stations provide, especially to
parents and their children. It's America's children who will feel the greatest
loss, especially those who can't attend preschool. PBS' educational media helps
prepare children for success in school and opens up the world to them in an
"The elimination of federal funding would be a significant
blow to nearly 900 public radio stations that serve the needs of more than 38
million Americans with free over-the-air programming they can't find anywhere
else," said NPR President Vivian Schiller. "It would diminish stations' ability
to bring high-quality local, national and international news to their
communities, as well as local arts, music and cultural programming that other
media don't present. Rural and economically distressed communities could lose
access to this programming altogether if their stations go dark."
While Republicans for years have tried to cut or zero
out funding to a service they view as a liberal platform, the issue got new
currency when NPR fired commentator Juan Williams for
comments about being nervous around people in airports wearing Muslim garb. NPR
took heat for the decision, followed up with an internal report and Ellen
Weiss, the NPR executive who made the call, resigned.
Longtime public broadcasting supporter Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
also decried the move, saying it was a case of Big Bird being robbed to
pay Big Oil. "By putting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Pell
Grants on the chopping block, Republicans are denying our youngest children and
our neediest students the excellence of educational, cultural and informational
resources and opportunities both in their homes and in classrooms throughout
the nation," he said.
But not everyone was coming to public broadcasters' defense.
"Nothing turns a watchdog into a lapdog faster than the government buying the dog food," said Seton Motley, president of Less Government. "The Corporation for Public Broadcasting became the pro-government Corporation for Progressive Broadcasting the moment it cashed the first government check. Besides the fact that the spending is unconstitutional, we can't afford it."