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Lawmakers Back Noncom Trust Fund

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is fighting to build a trust fund for public broadcasting from some of the proceeds from upcoming auctions of TV channels and other items in the communications spectrum.

Bills introduced in both the Senate and House would create a “Digital Opportunities Investment Trust” that would be used to help stations roll out distance learning and other new services made possible by the transition to digital broadcasting.

It would also be earmarked for digitizing information in libraries, museums and universities.

John Lawson, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, has been pushing for the creation of a trust that would be roughly $500 million, but by slating 30% of the multiple billions in revenue expected to be generated by spectrum auctions, the legislation could ensure a dramatically larger fund.

The money would not replace the annual appropriation to public broadcasting from Congress.