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Budget Would Zero Out Noncom Funding Programs Through NTIA, USDA

The Office of Management and Budget will try again to cut
some DTV-transition-related telecom facilities funds for noncommercial
broadcasters from the National Telecommunications & Information
Administration and USDA budgets, as well as scale back some Voice of American
language services

That OMB call came in the just-released 2011 budget. The
2010 budget initially attempted to make the same cuts, but none of them
survived the congressional review process--Congress must vote to approve the

The new budget tries to zero out the National
Telecommunications & Information Administration's Public Telecommunications
Facilities Program (PTFP), which got $20 million last year. PTFP has mostly
been used to help public broadcasters make the digital switch, which OMB
pointed out last time around was essentially complete and pointed out in this
budget was complete. "The digital television transition was completed in
2009, and there is no further need for DOC's program," OMB wrote.

Also like last year, the 2011 budget recommends zeroing out
$5 million in USDA grants for public broadcasting, pointing out they, too, were
mostly for noncom DTV conversion, which is "largely complete" (no
explanation for the qualification of "largely" vs. the more definitive
"completed" language in the PTFP portion above) and is funded by CPB
anyway. It calls the USDA grants duplicative and unnecessary.

The Association for Public Television Stations begged to differ with the
administration's assessments on the NTIA and USDA funding.

"We are concerned that the President's budget does not recommend
funding for many vital programs and services that local public television
stations provide," said Larry Sidman, president of the Association of Public
Television Stations (APTS), in a statement Monday.

"The President's budget request does not include money for the Public
Telecommunications Facilities Program, an essential program which funds
infrastructure and equipment upgrades and replacements for public broadcasting
stations, and the RUS [USDA] Digital Transition Grant Program, a program
to ensure that the digital conversion does not leave rural America
behind," Sidman said.

On the international side, the budget cuts $32 million from
the government international broadcasting service, Voice of America, by eliminating
Hindi, Croatian and Greek-language broadcasts and closing a Paris finance office.

Cutting those services came after a survey of freedom and
democracy in which all three received a rating of "free."

On the international side, the budget saves another $3
million by eliminating Croatian and Greek-language broadcasts from
international broadcasting service, Voice of America. OMB point out that a 2009
Freedom of the World survey found those countries received a rating of