Obama would maintain CPB funding, eliminate rural digital grants in 2014 budget proposal

By Andrew Lapin

This article has been updated with a statement from CPB.

President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014 includes $445 million in federal aid for CPB, a signal of the White House’s commitment to continue funding CPB through fiscal 2015.

CPB’s federal funding is allocated two years in advance of the annual congressional appropriations cycle, and the president’s recommendation would maintain funding at the same amounts provided for fiscal 2013, prior to the cuts imposed through sequestration, and for 2014.

The White House’s budget proposes changes to other federal programs that assist public stations. President Obama recommends eliminating the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program, which provided more than $3 million in digital transition aid to local public TV in 2012, and consolidating the Ready to Learn low-income early childhood education program within other federal education programs. The White House has floated both proposals before, but Congress has not adopted them.

“We are grateful to the President for providing level funding for CPB and for continuing the advance funding mechanism so important to our stations and producers,” APTS President Pat Butler said in a statement. However, Butler challenged the White House’s recommendations on  Ready to Learn, saying, “Public television has helped 90 million pre-schoolers get ready to succeed in school and in life, and keeping Ready to Learn as an independent program is a smart investment in America’s future.”

In the same statement, Butler added that the digital conversion grants for rural stations help “to ensure that rural communities have continued access to local public television content after the federally mandated DTV conversion, which has been particularly difficult for rural communities.”

CPB President Pat Harrison also praised Obama’s budget proposal in a separate statement.

“CPB would like to thank the President for the funding he proposes in his budget, as well as for his support of the two-year advance, which serves as an important firewall ensuring editorial independence in programming decisions,” Harrison said. “The federal appropriation provides essential support for the production of local and national content, making it possible for public radio and television stations across the country, locally owned and operated, to serve their communities with content that educates, informs, inspires and entertains.”

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