Mississippi boosts state aid to pubcasting after half-decade of cuts

By Andrew Lapin

The Mississippi state legislature increased its funding for public broadcasting by 9 percent for fiscal year 2015, ending five consecutive years of cuts to Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s appropriations.

The funds will support tower repairs and other maintenance, said Margaret McPhillips, MPB spokesperson. She chalked the funding boost up to an expected surplus in state revenue and MPB’s concerted efforts to build relationships with state lawmakers. The approximately $7.8 million appropriation was approved unanimously in the state Senate and received only three dissenting votes in the House.

The new budget will go into effect July 1, at the start of the fiscal year.

“We’re certainly very pleased about it,” McPhillips said. The pubcaster has promoted its effectiveness in early childhood education services and workforce training, as well as health care initiatives such as a content partnership with the University of Mississippi Medical Center focusing on obesity issues. “I think they appreciate the fact that we were being frugal but responsible in our request.”

Before lawmakers approved the bill in March, the Republican-controlled legislature trimmed pubcasting subsidies every year going back to 2009. By 2014, state appropriations for MPB had fallen more than 13 percent, from $8.3 million to $7.2 million.

The biggest threat to MPB’s appropriations came in 2011, when then-Gov. Haley Barbour floated a proposal to eliminate all state funding over five years. The proposal prodded MPB to step up its legislative outreach, according to McPhillips, and the pubcaster began touting the benefits of its educational services to the state.

Though bills to zero-out MPB’s state appropriation were introduced in the legislature that year, none made it to the floor.

“We’re in a little bit better position as a state in general,” McPhillips said. “Over the past several years, knowing that state funds were tight, we didn’t go to the state legislature and ask for outrageous increases in our budget.”

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