Source : Warren Communications News
Public broadcasters braced for a new Capitol Hill funding fight as the House Labor-Hill Appropriations Committee Wed. voted to cut $115 million in federal funds. "It's familiar but distressing territory," NPR Vp-Govt. Relations Mike Riksen said. The cuts would especially hurt public radio because stations are in the midst of transitioning to digital, he said. Last year it took a massive grass-roots campaign that included stations using on-air appeals to get the House to reverse more than $100 million in funding cuts.
The panel cut $20 million of $400 million appropriated to the CPB for FY 2007 in 2-year advance funding, rejecting forward funding for FY 2009. No allocation was made for radio and TV digital conversion, public TV's new interconnection system or Ready to Learn. The panel rejected a $50 million cut proposed by the administration to CPB's $400 million FY 2008 appropriation, suggesting public broadcasters use some of the 2007 allocation for digital conversion and the interconnection system.
The proposed cuts come as the FCC is about to tee up the HD Radio order, meaning multicasting will go from experimental authorization to full-fledged routine operation, Riksen said. So digital funds are very important to public radio, he said: "We are sort of half way home... and to have the funds cut off now would be a big blow." The House panel showed "blatant disregard" for "millions" who last year voiced support for public broadcasting, Assn. of Public TV Pres. John Lawson said: "I guess we'll have to start ringing the phones again." CPB Pres. Pat Harrison appreciates the "choices confronting" the committee, but "a 20% cut... will impact all CPB programs and undermine public broadcasting's ability to continue to offer educational services and provide a backbone for the national emergency alert system," she said.
Last year's grass-roots campaign got the House to restore funding, but also triggered a CPB inspector gen. probe into whether stations used federal funds to lobby Congress. That inquiry was sought by some Republicans in Congress; the IG is expected to report in the fall. If need be, they will reprise last year's effort, public broadcasters said. No response has been formulated, but they won't be weighed down by the IG's investigation, Riksen said: "What we did last year was entirely within the boundaries of what's appropriate and legal." Last's year's campaign was "very effective and we are weighing that option again if necessary," said APTS Vp Jeffery Davis. Public broadcasters were "perfectly within our First Amendment rights" to tell viewers how Hill actions affect their services, he said: "So we are not going to be intimidated by people asking questions about it." National entities, including APTS, are "forming a legislative strategy" for the full committee markup set for June 13, said Davis.
Congress should fully restore public broadcasting funding or risk losing a source of news and information viewers trust above others, Free Press said. "Public broadcasting is once more under attack in Washington by those who would cripple public spirited alternatives to the commercial media and muzzle the critical voices and diverse cultural fare" PBS, NPR and other public media offer, said cofounder Robert McChesney.Warren Communications News