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Subcomittee Restores Ready To Learn Funds

A key Senate committee will vote Thursday on restoring nearly $100 million in public broadcasting funds, including money for kids shows and the digital transition, which were cut by the House from noncommercial stations for fiscal 2006.

The bill also would provide $400 million in advance funding for fiscal 2008.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected Thursday to approve a budget deal already given a thumbs-up by the panel's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
The subcommittee voted to include $25 million for Ready to Learn, the program that funds educational TV shows like Sesame Street, Postcards From Buster and Clifford the Big Red Dog, as well as $40 million in funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's replacement of its satellite interconnection program and $35 million to help stations construct digital broadcasting towers and studios.
The subcommittee's vote came with none of the debate and politically charged overtones that marred the House vote on public broadcasting's funding last month.
In fact, lawmakers didn't comment on public broadcasting funding at all beyond Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter's recitation of the funding levels as he read a two-page summary of the $146 billion bill in which the public broadcasting money is included.
That may be because the committee held a separate heating Monday where it heard from all the top noncom executives on the need for restored funding and put Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson through some tough questioning on a variety of issues related to his programming philosophy and management style.

The House on June 23 voted to restore $100 million in cuts recommended by the House Appropriations Committee, but that restored only 50% of the cuts made by the Appropriations Committee.

The Senate's Thursday vote would restore virtually all of the cuts from public broadcasting's budget request that have been pushed by the Bush administration and the House.

The proposed cuts to public broadcasting came amid mounting controversy over the direction of PBS TV programming.
CPB Chairman Tomlinson has argued that PBS news shows often contain a liberal slant and should be "balanced" with shows offering a conservative point of view.
Tomlinson's hiring of a GOP operative to tabulate liberal bias on PBS and NPR news shows and his recommendation of a former GOP co-chairman, Patricia Harrison, to be CPB president led some Capitol Hill Democrats to demand his resignation and an inspector general investigation--which is currently underway-- into those two endeavors.