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House Subcommittee Proposes Zeroing Out Noncom Funding

The Association of Public Television Stations weighed in
Tuesday with their "deep disappointment" over yet another Republican-led
effort to defund public broadcasting. They were reacting to the House
Appropriations Subcommittee proposal to cut funding for the next two years and
zero out funding in 2013.

In the bill, which
the committee released Tuesday,
CPB would lose its advance appropriations
for 2015 --budgeting is always two years ahead to try and insulate it from
politics -- and would have its already-appropriated 2013 budget cut by $111.3
and its 2014 budget cut by essentially double that ($222.5 million) in the
interests of "encouraging [the] CPB to operate exclusively on private
funds." That would be a neat trick, since CPB's sole mission is to
distribute the federal funding that makes up an average 15% of noncom stations
budgets -- less for some stations, considerably more for others. Noncoms handle
the private funding end via pledges, grants and sponsorships.

"This proposal flies in the face of the will of the American
people, who routinely rank public broadcasting as one of the best investments
the federal government makes and who overwhelmingly support our work and our
public service mission, across the ideological spectrum," said APTS president
Patrick Butler in a statement.

It is not only Republicans who have suggested cutting noncom
funding -- the cochairsof the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform backin 2010 recommended zeroing out funding for the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting as one way to help save $200 billion. But, ultimately, that
recommendation was not endorsed by the full committee or the president and the
Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended preserving that
funding at about current levels -- $445 million.

Butler points out there have already been funding cuts, and
that noncoms have never argued they should be "immune to sacrifice."
But he suggests that is different from being sacrificed in its entirety on the
budget-cutting altar. "The House Labor-H proposal to eliminate our funding
entirely would mean the end of public broadcasting in America," he said.

CPB provides funding to almost 1,300 noncom TV and radio

CPB President Patricia Harrison, echoed APTS' concerns: "Without the federal investment in public broadcasting, the high-quality content, universal service, and accountability that federal funding has fostered and ensured for the last 45 years would end. The issue of federal funding, and the recommendations in this bill, go directly to whether the United States should have a public broadcasting system," she said.

NPR joined the concerned crowd. "We are disappointed and troubled by these proposals and we and our member stations are actively engaging with Members of Congress to explain the damage it would do to public radio and television stations if enacted," said NPR President Gary Knell. "Over 34 million people rely on public radio stations every week for fact-based, independent news they can trust, for civic and civil dialogue, and for music and cultural programming that can't be found anywhere else."

That chorus also included PBS. "While we understand the many difficult decisions appropriators must make and that the nation is facing challenging economic times, if enacted, such drastic cuts in federal funding could have a devastating effect on public television stations, especially those in rural areas," said PBS President Paula Kerger. "We urge members of Congress to listen to the American public, which consistently support the federal investment in public broadcasting."