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House Commerce Dems Back Noncoms

The latest salvo in the battle over the future of public broadcasting, the Democrats on the House Commerce Committee have sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee asking that full funding be restored to Public TV and radio.

Republican members were not approached about joining the effort, according to a committee staffer.

The Democrats argue that zeroing out some programs and reducing funds for others will devastate local stations and communities.

The June 21 letter was sent to California Republican Jerry Lewis and Democrat David Obey.

The inclusion of Obey is a courtesy, since the pitch is preaching to the choir in his case. The Wisconsin legislator made a strong stand against the cuts last week before the committee vote to make them, including reading off a list of nonom stations and the draconian budget cuts they would face..

Obey was also instrumental in restoring CBP funds for 2008 through an amendment that passed on voice vote.

In the letter, which comes in advance of an expected June 23 or 24 House consideration of the cuts, the legislators say:

"On June 16, 2005, the Committee on Appropriations voted to approve drastic cuts in Federal funding for public broadcasting.

"The slashing of more than $200 million from national programming, educational grants, and local station operations dishonors public broadcasting's dedication to our local communities.  The overall cuts to CPB funding would have a devastating impact on local stations and the communities they serve.

"By zeroing out any funds for public television's Ready to Learn and Ready to Teach programs, the appropriations measure would harm our Nation's children and teachers.  The bill also cuts funding to help local stations undergo the conversion to a digital broadcasting system and a much-needed upgrade to PBS's satellite system that distributes national programming to local stations. 

"We support restoring CPB's current funding levels, including Ready To Learn, Ready To Teach, interconnection and digital funding.  We also support advance funding that enables public broadcasting critical lead-time to plan and produce programs, and leverage additional funding through non-Federal sources, stretching Federal dollars for the greatest impact."

The letter follows calls Wednesday for the resignation of CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson, who critics say has abetted the cuts through his charges of liberal bias on PBS and NPR, as well as the deliver of one million petitions to Capitol Hill asking Congress to keep its hands off noncom funding.