Budget deal a blow to Public Broadcasting…but it could’ve been worse

The House today passed legislation to fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year. The Senate is expected to pass the bill shortly and the President to sign it. For public broadcasting, the legislation provides the Corporation for Public Broadcasting $445 million and $6 million for CPB’s digital projects (a stinging $30 million less than last year). The bill contains no funding for the Department of Commerce’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, which has supported public stations through matching equipment grants for decades. If it wasn’t for these competitive grants, many stations in the country would’ve been off the air years ago. This will be a major issue for stations, big and small.

Now, Congress will start deliberating about the FY2012 budget with the crafting of appropriations bills that will impact public broadcasting one way or another. Certainly, with the recent issues facing NPR and the intense debate in the House, getting a decent appropriation for the rest of this fiscal year was critical. My concern is that the loss of a key funding source for costly equipment will, in a short time, cripple many stations. The Dept. of Commerce grants helped WOSU raise contributions from corporations and individuals by leveraging the federal equipment funds, which required at least a 50 percent community match. It was an excellent program that required local community support.

The head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Patricia Harrison said today that “through this bill, Congress has again affirmed the importance of the American people’s investment in public media and the service that stations provide every day in communities across this country.” Thanks to everyone who signed up for 170millionamericans.org and helped advocate for public broadcasting…that must continue as Congress considers the FY2012 budget.

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