Trump's Budget Defunds NEA, NEH

As telegraphed, President Donald Trump's new budget takes an axe to so called "soft power" programs and agencies to make room for boosting the budgets of "hard power" departments like Defense and Homeland Security, including billions for the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

That includes zeroing out money for noncommercial radio and TV and the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.

The President, in a letter to Congress, called his budget cuts "sensible and rational" and an attempt to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. OMB director Mick Mulvaney added that it was also aimed at the "crisis" of a $20 trillion national debt.

"The decision to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities is a new low point for the current Administration," said Ovation VP of network strategy Liz Janneman. "By ignoring the voices of millions of Americans, and focusing on the ill-informed advice of organizations like The Heritage Foundation, President Trump has taken an ax to one of the best investments the federal government makes year in and year out. Rather than the short-sighted point of view that the arts are a frivolity or a luxury not worthy of federal funding, this Administration fails to recognize the well-documented fact that arts and culture industries generate $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state and federal governments every year, and create 4.13 million full-time jobs, generating $86.68 billion in household income. The arts are also one of America’s biggest exports. So, if the contention is that eliminating the NEA and NEH budgets are somehow going to save the federal government money, then someone needs to check the batteries in their calculator. According to 21st century economists, the arts are a valuable commodity for U.S. consumers, as well as a strong contributor to America’s economic vitality. “

The President's budget is only a proposal that Congress needs to approve, so there is still hope for those programs.

In that spirit, Ovation, which has long fought to preserve NEA and NEH, has recruited some high-profile, non-profit arts organizations and artists—including the Ford's Theatre Society and the American Ballet Theatre, for a 2017 Stand for Arts campaign to try and save the programs.

NEA is the independent government agency established in 1965 to partner with federal, state and local agencies and funding sources to support arts learning and equal access to the art, according to NEA, which has awarded more than $5 billion over that time.

In 2015, for example—its most recent annual report—it partnered with Playbill and Disney to create a Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge for high school students, sponsored poetry reading competitions, and funded fellowships in writing and translation. Its total budget was a little less than $150 million, about one sixteenth of one stealth bomber.

NEA sponsored 30,000 concerts, readings and performances, more than 5,000 exhibitions (attendance 33 million), and supported performances on broadcasting and cable to at least 360 million more.

NEA has helped create art therapy for injured servicemen and even partnered with the White House for its 2014 holiday tour.

The Recording Academy recorded its displeasure with the move top phase out NEA.

“Love of music and the arts brings us together, and celebrates the richness of American culture and our spirit of curiosity and creativity," said Academy president Neil Portnow. "Music and art serve as one of America’s greatest exports, and support jobs for creators in cities, towns and rural areas across the country. The White House proposal to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is shortsighted and alarming. The modest support that we provide to music and the arts is returned many times over, whether measured in jobs and economic impact, or sheer cultural enrichment and introspection. The Recording Academy will ask Congress to maintain funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and renew our commitment to America’s creators.”

The Future of Music Coalition called the proposed axing of CPB, NEA and NEH "indefensible, shameful and senseless."

“As artists, musicians, and music lovers, we stand united in asking Congress to reject these cuts, retaining support for the arts and culture, by fully funding the NEA, NEH, and CPB," the group said. “Congress must stand up for the arts.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) decried the massive budget cuts in various programs, including for the arts, saying creative industries "support a vibrant and secure economy."

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.