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Noncoms Defend Their Turf in Senate Letter

Noncommercial broadcasters have sent a letter of their own
to every senator arguing for continued CPB funding. That came following reports
that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is collecting signatures from colleagues on a
letter asking Hill budgeters to zero out funding for CPB, which disburses
government funding for public broadcasting.

That is according to a copy of the letter supplied to

In a letter to the chiefs of staffs of every senator sent
Thursday night, Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public
Television stations, said that axing federal funding for noncoms would only cut
the federal budget by "one-hundredth of one percent" -- CPB wants
$445 million -- but would have "a devastating effect on all the good work
we're trying to do for the American people."

DeMint complains in his letterthat CPB is asking for no cut in funding in the face of massive deficits, but
Butler says that level funding request comes after federal funds to noncoms
have been cut by $50 million (13%) already over the past two fiscal years in
response to budget and deficit "challenges."

DeMint has gotten a number of his Republican colleagues to
sign on to the letter and Butler's letter invokes Republicans and their causes
to make its case. He says that President Eisenhower saw educational
broadcasting as an element of national defense, and that former Florida
Governor Jeb Bush told him last fall that deploying education with the newest
learning technology can be the "tip of the spear" in educational

He also called public television the backbone for emergency
alerts, public safety and homeland security.

"And what is the cost to the federal taxpayer," he
asks, "for all these local services and the works of Ken Burns, Sesame Street, Great Performances, American
, A Capitol Fourth, NOVA, Nature, Masterpiece's dramatization of the complete works of Jane
Austen, and so much more, to say nothing of the extraordinary news coverage and
cultural contributions of NPR? It is $1.35 per citizen.

"I'd be very grateful for the Senator's consideration
of these facts while making a decision about whether or not to support Senator
DeMint's proposal, and my colleagues here at the Association of Public
Television Stations and I would be delighted to elaborate on any of the points
I've tried to make here," he concludes.

A spokesman for Senator DeMint said Friday he was still
collecting signature and had yet to send the letter.

According to the spokesman, senators who have already signed
on to the letter include Republicans Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Senate Commerce
Committee ranking member Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Jeff Sessions of Alabama,
John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

An identical letter is being passed around the House by Rep.
Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.).

DeMint is a veteran CPB critic who has tried before to ax
its funding.