Skip to main content

APTS President Butler Fights Public Broadcasting Budget Cuts

Public Broadcasters were in town this week to stand up and be counted as Republican legislators push for cutting or zeroing out their funding. Leading the charge was Association of Public Television Stations President Patrick Butler.

In a speech to the assembled execs in town for APTS' Capitol Hill Day legislative meet-and-greet,
Butler said "the
stations were there representing the 170 million Americans who regularly rely on public broadcasting, to say 'we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore.'"

Republicans have taken aim at noncoms both as a budget item that needs cutting and as a service that gives voice to its liberal critics. Butler was having none of either, though he also pointed to support from at least 10 Republicans (a study released by PBS found that a majority of both Republican and Democratic respondents favored continued noncom funding).

"If there's a bias," he said, "it's a bias in favor of civil discourse, comprehensive journalism, a diversity of voices and viewpoints, and the balance and objectivity required of us by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967."

And as for value for their government dollar, which is only about 15% of noncom budgets (though that is an average), Butler counted the ways public TV stations serve up that value. "We win more Emmys and Peabodys and Murrows than anybody.

"We have more international news bureaus than anybody. We teach more Hispanic children than anybody. We honor the Native American and his culture. We have helped two generations of African American and inner-city children get ready to learn and to succeed in school," he said.

Butler said the stations' on-air appeals and other pushback have registered. "Members of Congress have been calling me to say, ‘We got the message. Would you please back off?'"

His answer: "No, I don't think we will. We will fight this good fight until it is won. We will fight until our funding is secure, until our freedom of expression is secure, until the overwhelming support of the American people for what we do is recognized and ratified in the Congress of the United States."

A Republican-backed budget bill passed by the House two weeks ago would have defunded CPB, but that bill went nowhere. The two continuing resolutions that have kept the government funded so far (through Friday, April 8) did not cut funding, and in fact explicitly preserved that funding at $445 million, though that authorization is only effective through Friday.