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Trump Budget Zeros Out Funding for CPB

As predicted, Donald Trump's new "America First" budget, which is being released at 7 a.m. Thursday (March 16), will zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the non-profit company that provides most of a half billion dollars in federal money for noncommercial media.

The confirmation came from Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, who outlined the president's budget in a conference call with reporters, calling it a "hard-power" budget that required cutting "soft-power" programs.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had circulated a Washington Post story this week about the budget that mentioned the expectation CPB's funding would be cut; the administration would be unlikely to pass around a story that conflicted with its plans.

Asked whether CPB's $421 million in funding would be eliminated, Mulvaney shot back, "Yes," then finessed his answer a bit, but essentially only on a technicality.

"No, I'm, sorry, I was too quick with that," Mulvaney said. "We propose ending funding, but technically what you will see is its elimination, but you'll see an amount of money in the budget necessary for us to unwind our involvement in CPB, but it will see a zero next to it; the policy is, we're ending federal involvement with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

The budget is only a blueprint, and Congress must approve its line items. Congress created the CPB in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which declared it to be in the public interest.

While Republicans, and even some Democrats, have in the past balked at the funding and pushed for cuts, more recently CPB has had support from both sides for full funding.

CPB is forward-funded as a means of keeping politics out of it, and in June of last year, the company was fully funded through 2019. But it now looks like it will be backward-defunded. Mulvaney said 2017 funding would be for "winding down" the government's involvement and that the CPB would be zeroed out in 2018.

Mulvaney did not talk specifically about CPB beyond saying it was being defunded, but said that to increase the budgets for Defense and Homeland Security, and to provide billions for "The Wall" -- including $1.5 billion in 2017 and more than $2 billion in 2018 -- the administration would make dollar-for-dollar cuts to programs he said were indefensible.

CPB is the largest single source of funding for public radio, television and related online and mobile services, according to its website. It provides about 15% of the budgets for noncommercial media organizations, with the rest coming from corporate underwriters and contributions from viewers.

More than 70% of CPB’s federal funding goes directly to local public media stations, the CPB's website notes, at an average annual cost per American of $1.35.

Among other takeaways from the call with Mulvaney was a 28% reduction in the State Department's budget, much of that from foreign aid programs.

Mulvaney also said the budget would include cuts in infrastructure spending, which would appear not to square with Trump’s plan to spend on infrastructure upgrades, but Mulvaney added that money was being moved out of less efficient programs and parked to be used in more efficient ones.