Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Eliminating Corp. for Public Broadcasting could lead to closure of rural public TV, radio stations

KET, a network of PBS stations in Kentucky, would
lose $3.4 million a year under President Trump's budget
President Trump's proposed budget includes eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would have a major impact on public television and radio stations that serve rural areas, Justin Ray and Carlett Spike report for Columbia Journalism Review. About $445 million of CPB funding goes to public TV and radio annually, with more than 70 percent of that supporting local stations. NPR only receives 1 percent of its funding from CPB and PBS gets less than 7 percent. CPB says 43 percent of public broadcasting station grantees it supports are considered rural.

A 2012 report commissioned by CPB on what would happen if the system lost all its federal funding found that "within three years of losing federal funding, 76 public radio stations and 54 public TV stations would be at 'high risk of simply closing,'" Joseph Lichterman reports for Nieman Lab.

"Of the radio stations it identified, 47 serve rural communities, 46 were the only public radio station available in their market, and 10 were the only broadcasters of any medium in their market," Lichterman writes. "If the 54 TV stations went off the air, the report estimated that more than 12 million viewers would lose their ability to watch over-the-air public television."

For instance, Kentucky Educational Television, a PBS member, gets $3.4 million annually—15 percent of its operations budget—from CPB, John Cheves reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. In Utah, KUED-Channel 7, the state's PBS affiliate, gets 19 percent of its budget from CPB, and KBYU-Channel 11, the public TV and radio stations at Brigham Young University, would lose more than $5 million, Scott Pierce reports for The Salt Lake Tribune.

In response to the proposed cuts, "a bipartisan pair of House members are urging appropriators to protect funds for public broadcasting amid the Trump administration’s budget proposal to eliminate its federal support," Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) "plan to urge lawmakers in charge of the House Appropriations panel that oversees the CPB to ensure they’re fully funded."

"The two lawmakers emphasized that rural communities would be hardest hit by cuts to public broadcasting," Marcos writes. The letter states: “In rural areas, where public broadcasting stations can be the only source of free, high-quality local programming available to families, funding from CPB can amount to more than half of some rural stations’ budgets. This is a gap that cannot be closed by increased underwriting revenue or donor support."

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