• Free the CBC
  • Free the CBC
  • About Friends

In Reversal Since the Recession, Some States Give More Money to Public Television by Elizabeth Jensen

Mar 16, 2014

Source: New York Times

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana would seem an unlikely candidate to receive an award from the Association of Public Television Stations: In 2005, while in the House of Representatives, he led a failed attempt to zero out federal funding for public media.

But last month, the association gave him a Champion of Public Broadcasting award for restoring previously cut state funding to support public broadcasting in his first budget as governor.

State funding for public television, which nose-dived after the recession, has experienced an uptick in the last two years.

Funding is still off sharply from the 2008 fiscal year, when 38 states appropriated about $277 million for public television stations or statewide networks, according to statistics collected by the National Educational Telecommunications Association and released by the television group.

For 2014, 35 states set aside about $191.5 million. That was up about $10 million since last year, and a gain of $13.5 million since the appropriations hit a low of $178 million in the 2012 fiscal year, said Patrick Butler, chief executive of the Association of Public Television Stations.

He said he is also optimistic about future gains; Gov. Robert J. Bentley of Alabama, for one, recently proposed $6.35 million in funding, a 38 percent increase, for Alabama Public Broadcasting.

The figures are not precise because in some states appropriations for public radio and television are reported as a single figure and the telecommunications association did not break out television’s portion. Also, some of the additional money was given as one-time grants for capital improvements or as contracts for specific services and not as general allocations.

But the trend is hopeful, Mr. Butler said, noting that 21 states increased support in the current budget cycle. Seven states allocated the same amount of funding and seven reduced support.

In making the case for support, public television stations are increasingly promoting new educational services — including digital classroom resources through PBS Learning Media, online high school courses and work force training — as well as their traditional role in early childhood education through “Sesame Street” and other programs.

“We are low-cost, high-quality providers of these services in ways we weren’t before,” Mr. Butler said, adding that state governments have begun to realize that the new offerings can be “a valuable adjunct” to state-provided educational services. Stations have also begun to use their broadcast spectrum for public safety applications, he said.

In Florida, funding for public broadcasting ended after Gov. Rick Scott’s 2011 inauguration. Today, after some money was restored, it stands at $7.4 million, including funds to support infrastructure improvements, after the state’s public broadcasters did a return-on-investment calculation.

“We looked at all the resources and what we provide in services back, and the return was just about $11 for every dollar the state gave us,” said Janyth Righter, executive director of the Florida Public Broadcasting Service.

Governor Pence, in his address when he received his award, said “it was an easy call” when state officials were weighing whether to include funding in the budget.

“Public television plays a vital role in educating all of the public, but most especially our children,” he said.

© New York Times