This morning the details were released of last week’s agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Washington about how to fund the federal government through the end of this fiscal year, on September 30.
In the final analysis, most federal support for public radio and television stations, and our on-line services, survives — a remarkable accomplishment in the face of the all-out insistence of many Congressional Republicans to terminate these programs.
The main program for supporting public radio and TV, which is the general appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is set at the same level as it was in the previous fiscal year — $445 million. Targeted funding for CPB that assists stations in making the transition from analog to digital production and transmission was cut, from $36 million to $6 million. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (which is also targeted to specific technical projects in public broadcasting and distance learning for schools) was eliminated completely. Finally, all continuing programs will be subject to a reduction in funding of 0.2 percent.
The bill doesn’t contain any provisions that put new restrictions how stations use their CPB support. You’ll recall that the U.S. House of Representatives did pass a bill requiring that public radio stations not use any federal support for producing or acquiring programming (a roundabout way of punishing NPR); that “rider” did not make it into this continuing resolution, and the stand-alone bill is not going to go anywhere in the U.S. Senate.
Some other “non-defense discretionary” programs took a proportionately bigger hit than did public broadcasting. One would have to conclude that Congress and the White House did, ultimately, respond to the objections of tens of thousands of public radio listeners and public TV viewers to the idea of cutting off our federal support. If yours was one of those voices, thank you!
The debate will heat back up again as the Congress begins consideration of the budget for the fiscal year that begins on October 1, later this spring.