Senate Appropriations Approves Level Funding for CPB

The Senate Appropriations Committee has provided level funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including for the Ready to Learn early childhood education program, and even $20 million in interconnection funds, according to a relieved CPB. Interconnection funding was not included in the House version of the appropriations bill, so that is a net gain, and one CPB had pushed for.

President Donald Trump proposed phasing out funding for CPB, which distributes the approximately 15% of noncommercial TV and radio budgets supported by government funds, but Congress has shown no interest in doing so.

In fact, the importance of noncommercial broadcasting is an issue on which a divided Capitol Hill generally agrees.

The funding was included in the  FY2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill, which passed out of the committee 29 to 2.

"America's Public Television Stations (APTS) are grateful to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for providing level funding of $445 million in Fiscal Year 2020 for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and $27.7 million in Fiscal Year 2018 for the Ready To Learn program, a competitive grant program at the Department of Education that supports the creation of public television's on-air, online and on-the-ground children’s educational media content," said APTS President Patrick Butler.

CPB is forward funded to try to insulate it from politics, though its appropriation has become something of a political football regardless, driven by Republicans citing what they say is a liberal bias. 

“Additionally, the Committee provided funding of $20 million for an annual interconnection and infrastructure funding program that will replace the once-a-decade special funding cycle that has traditionally covered public broadcasting’s interconnection enhancement requirements," said Butler.

“These federal funds are essential to local public television stations’ public service missions and to ensuring that everyone, everywhere in America, every day has access to these essential services for free."

Butler earlier in the day had testified in the House on another pressing budgetary matter, the need for noncoms to get more money for the post incentive auction TV station repack, saying lack of funding could be an existential threat.

Butler pointed to Ken Burns new Vietnam documentary, debuting Sept. 17, as something no other broadcaster would devote 18 hours to—making the point for the importance of its continued existence. He said that documentary was a masterpiece that would challenge or overturn many people's assumption about that war.

"We appreciate the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ support in providing CPB with an advance appropriation of $445 million in FY 2020," said CPB President Patricia Harrison. "This appropriation is vital in ensuring that public media’s distinctive, high-quality educational and informational content and emergency alert services continue to reach every American, regardless of where you live or your economic means.

"The Committees’ support of the Department of Education’s Ready To Learn program benefits our nation’s youngest learners, especially from low income communities, as they prepare for school and a lifetime of learning," she said. "CPB further appreciates the Senate’s full support of the public broadcasting interconnection system, the infrastructure backbone that delivers content to and from local public media stations across the country. As Congress looks to complete the FY 2018 appropriations process, CPB looks forward to working with them to ensure funding for a healthy and vibrant public media system.

"On behalf of the millions of Americans who consume and connect with public media every day, CPB would like to thank Congress for its continued strong support.”

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.