POTUS Takes New Aim at Public Broadcasting

President Donald Trump has once again recommended zeroing out funding for public broadcasting, a proposal that did not fly with either Democrats or Republicans last time around.

That is according to the President's proposed FY2019 budget, which proposes only a nominal wind-down budget for noncoms.

Patricia Harrison, a former top Republican party official and now CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was not pleased with the President's just-released FY 2019 budget and its cutting off all but $15 million for public media in 2019 and 2020 (public media are forward funded in an attempt to insulate them from politics). The allocation has been $445 million per year.

Harrison argued passionately for the service last time around.

Related: Senate Appropriations Approves Level Funding for CPB

“Americans place great value on having universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services, provided commercial free and free of charge. Since there is no viable substitute for federal funding that would ensure this valued service continues, the elimination of federal funding to CPB would at first devastate, and then ultimately destroy public media’s ability to provide early childhood content, life-saving emergency alerts, and public affairs programs," said Harrison.

Other noncom execs lined up to criticize the budget as well.

Responding to the Administration’s proposal to eliminate federal funding for public media, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger issued the following comment:

“Public broadcasting has earned bipartisan Congressional support over the years thanks to the value we provide to taxpayers," said PBS President Paula Kerger. "PBS, our 350 member stations and our legions of local supporters will continue to remind leaders in Washington of the significant benefits the public receives in return for federal funding, a modest investment of about $1.35 per citizen per year, which include school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, public safety communications and lifelong learning. PBS is focused on providing high-quality content and universal public service to the American people, which is why we enjoy strong support in every region of the country, in both rural and urban areas, and across the political spectrum.”

"“America’s Public Television Stations are disappointed in President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal that once again recommends the elimination of federal funding for public media," said APTS President Patrick Butler. “We will continue to make our case with the Administration that characterizing our work as simply another television channel misses the fact that we provide the only preschool education for more than half of America’s children, that we are the backbone of public safety communications networks at the local, state and national levels, and that we do more to equip America’s citizens to do the hard work of democracy than anyone else.

Related: House Subcommittee Recommends Full CPB Funding

President Trump last year proposed phasing out funding for CPB in the FY 2018 budget -- CPB distributes the approximately 15% of noncommercial TV and radio budgets supported by government funds -- but Congress has shown no interest in doing so.

Republicans in Congress have historically targeted noncoms for funding cuts over what they see as a liberal bias, but it was Republicans along with Democrats on the Hill who preserved the funding last year against attacks from the Administration, which had wanted to axe so called "soft power" programs like CPB and NEA to make room for boosting the budgets of "hard power" departments like Defense and Homeland Security.

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.