Good News...Bad News About Federal Funding

May 1, 2014

Language contained in House Republican’s FY 2015 budget blueprint released in early April calls for the elimination of all funding for public broadcasting.

The appropriations season is unfolding in Washington D.C. and there is both good news and bad news to report related to continued funding for public broadcasting stations around the country.

In the good news column, there are signs of bipartisan cooperation between Republicans and Democrats to fund public broadcasting, with two Northwest members of the House taking the lead.  Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the House Public Broadcasting Caucus and his House GOP colleague, Dave Reichert (R-WA), are circulating a bipartisan letter through the House of Representatives to request support for public broadcasting funding.  As of April 1st, 137 U.S. Representatives signed onto the letter.

In the bad news column, is language contained in House Republican’s FY 2015 budget blueprint released in early April that calls for elimination of all funding for public broadcasting.  Led by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee, the fiscal blueprint contains provisions that advance the priority of balancing the budget over the next ten years.  House GOP budgets in recent years have included recommendations to reduce or end funding to many federal programs including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and this year is no different.  Language included within the blueprint states:

"Encourage Private Funding for Cultural Agencies. Federal subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can no longer be justified. The activities and content funded by these agencies go beyond the core mission of the federal government. These agencies can raise funds from private-sector patrons, which will also free them from any risk of political interference."

The budget resolution does not have the force of law and is not binding.  It does, however, set guidelines for other legislation, including tax bills. One of its more important functions is establishing spending ceilings for the congressional appropriations committees.  Spending caps for FY 2015, however, were already approved under the bipartisan budget agreement settled by the House and Senate in December.

Despite the broad-based bipartisan support funding for public broadcasting enjoys among Americans, it seems public radio and television stations may once again be a political football in the months ahead.

Federal support of public radio and television is one of the most successful examples of the public-private partnerships heralded by leaders of all political stripes.  Every year, the vast majority of federal funding goes directly to local community-based stations.  And, for every federal dollar received by stations, local communities contribute another six non-federal dollars.  Here in Southern Oregon and Northern California that number is even higher.

Each day, the American public receives a real return on its investment in public radio and television stations with over half the U.S. population utilizing public broadcasting services every month.  Public radio stations now reach more people than the total circulation of the top 114 national newspapers.  In numerous national surveys, NPR is identified by members of all political parties as one of the most trusted sources for news and information.

As the House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet and hold hearings during the coming weeks, we’ll keep you posted how the public broadcasting federal funding saga unfolds.  In the meantime, we encourage you to share your view on this issue with your elected representatives.

Paul Westhelle, Executive Director