House Labor HHS proposal would slash pubcasting funding, zero it out in FY15

By Dru Sefton

A Republican House Appropriations Committee funding bill heading for subcommittee mark up Wednesday (July 18) contains deep cuts in federal support for public broadcasting in the next two years and complete defunding in fiscal 2015.

The Labor, Health and Human Services bill proposed by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) would rescind $111.3 million, or 25 percent, of CPB’s FY13 advance appropriation, and $222.5 million, about 50 percent, of its FY14 support. (Complete bill text here, and a summary from the Appropriations Committee here.)

The bill also bans FY13 funding “to pay dues to, acquire programs from, or otherwise support National Public Radio.” That’s the same language used in a bill last year that attempted to defund NPR, which passed the House but not the Senate (Current, March 21, 2011).

Overall, the proposal would cut funding under lawmakers’ direct control by 4 percent to $150 billion, reports the Washington Post, which also calls it a “controversial spending bill” that “is dead on arrival with Democrats but contains many provisions to please tea party conservatives.”

The four major public broadcasting national organizations issued reactions:

CPB President Pat Harrison said the bill “would clearly begin the elimination of CPB funding. This action is in stark contrast to the overwhelming trust and value the American people place in our country’s public broadcasting service. . . . Without the federal investment in public broadcasting, the high-quality content, universal service, and accountability that federal funding has fostered and ensured for the last 45 years would end. The issue of federal funding, and the recommendations in this bill, go directly to whether the United States should have a public broadcasting system.” (Full statement here.)

Association of Public Television Stations President Patrick Butler said the proposal “flies in the face of the will of the American people, who routinely rank public broadcasting as one of the best investments the federal government makes and who overwhelmingly support our work and our public service mission, across the ideological spectrum.” Butler also said APTS is “grateful” that the Senate Appropriations Committee “has already recommended level funding of $445 million for public broadcasting, and that the President has made the same recommendation in his current budget proposal.” (Full statement here.)

PBS President Paula Kerger said, “While we understand the many difficult decisions appropriators must make and that the nation is facing challenging economic times, if enacted, such drastic cuts in federal funding could have a devastating effect on public television stations, especially those in rural areas. Last year, a study conducted by the bipartisan research team of Hart/American Viewpoint found overwhelming public opposition to the elimination of government funding of public broadcasting, with nearly 70 percent of voters — across the political spectrum — opposing such a cut. We urge members of Congress to listen to the American public, which consistently support the federal investment in public broadcasting.”

NPR President Gary Knell said, “We are disappointed and troubled by these proposals and we and our member stations are actively engaging with members of Congress to explain the damage it would do to public radio and television stations if enacted. . . . By prohibiting stations from using CPB funds to pay for NPR programming like Morning Edition and Car Talk, the Subcommittee is overlooking the big role that our programs play in helping stations to raise private sector funds from listeners and businesses in their communities. This provision would undercut stations’ ongoing efforts to raise funds locally to support expanded local news, information and cultural programming.” (Full statement here.)

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