Full Noncom Funding Gets Bipartisan Senate Appropriations Support

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved level funding for public broadcasting at $445 million for 2021, according to a buoyant America's Public Television Stations. (Public media are forward funded in an attempt to insulate them from politics).

APTS president Patrick Butler also praised the approval of $20 million in 2019 for interconnection and infrastructure upgrades, which Butler called "the backbone of the public broadcasting system."

Butler said APTS was awaiting word on funding for the Ready to Learn grant program via the Department of Education.

Related: Senate Appropriations Approves Level Funding for Noncoms

"We are most grateful for the bipartisan leadership of Committee chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), subcommittee chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), committee vice chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and subcommittee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash)," Butler said. "The broad support for this funding among both Republican and Democratic members of the committee, where the bill passed on a vote of 30-1 today, mirrors the support the American people have consistently given to our work in communities throughout the country."

Friends in (Formerly) Unusual Places

Public broadcasting funding has historically been a divisive issue, with many Republicans wanting to defund or reduce funding, citing a liberal bias. But President Donald Trump's efforts to phase out funding have been met with resistance from Republicans, many of whom have started sounding like Democrats in their ringing defense of the service as a needed voice and a public service.

Butler made that public service point as well Thursday (June 28) in praising the full funding, calling noncoms "the 'C-SPAN' of state governments."

Patricia Harrison, a former top Republican party official and now CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has pushed back strongly on the President's efforts to zero out funding. Trump wanted to cut off all but $15 million for public media in 2019 and 2020.

Last July, when the House Labor Subcommittee recommended full funding, chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) didn't sound like someone who wanted to axe the funding for CPB, though he did point out that when Harrison was co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, he was chief of staff.

Cole said at the time, "If you look over a 50-year [CPB] history it is a pretty impressive record of enriching the content of public dialog, opening doors to communities that don't often have these kind of opportunities and living within what is by any measure at the federal level a comparatively modest budget, which you manage to leverage and multiply many times over."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.