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House Democrats spoke up first and voted overwhelmingly for full CPB funding, but it was 87 Republicans who brought the big victory margin. Pictured: Democrats Lowey, Clinton, Markey and Dingell with Clifford the PBS dog and a stack of 1 million petitions. (Photo: Current.)

House votes 2 to 1 to restore CPB aid

Originally published in Current, June 27, 2005
By Jeremy Egner

A week of rallies, petitions, public service announcements and entreaties Congress persuaded the House of Representatives last week to restore the $400 million appropriation for next year that Congress advance-funded two years ago.

By a 2-to-1 margin, the House reversed a 25 percent cut in the outlay that the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee recommended the previous week.

David Obey (D-Wis.), Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Muppet-wielding pubcasting advocate Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) sponsored the amendment, which passed with votes from 87 Republicans, 196 Democrats and an independent. Total vote: 284-140. [Votes by party, roll call by name.]

The victory was a spoonful of sugar that made it easier for some pubcasters to swallow CPB’s hiring of Patricia Harrison despite strong objections by many (separate story). Spurred by news reports and stations’ on-air announcements, pubcasting fans signed petitions and inundated members of Congress with phone calls with a fervor that reminded some lawmakers of Newt Gingrich’s 1995 assault on pubcasting.

“We have a new remake of an old show,” Lowey told the House last week. “Ten years ago when the right-wing launched an assault on public television, Americans rallied and Republicans retreated.”

Unlike the 1995 attack, however, pubcasters had little warning their opponents would cut so deep, APTS President John Lawson said.

While lobbyists knew the budget environment was tight, few expected the Appropriations Committee to cut pubcasting’s total 2006 funding by more than 40 percent. In addition to reducing CPB funding, it eliminated the $23 million earmarked for Ready to Learn (separate story) and denied requests for $39 million in digital transition funding and $50 million to replace the aging pubTV satellite system.

In a separate bill, the House omitted funding for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, as in past years, but the Senate okayed $22 million for PTFP last week. Differences between House and Senate budget bills will be reconciled in conference later this summer.

The restoration of funds was especially welcome to smaller and rural pubcasters that depend more heavily on CPB Community Service Grants. While CSGs compose a small slice of the budget for a large station such as San Francisco’s KQED—$1 million out of a $43 million total budget—they can represent half the TV budget for stations such as WNMU in Marquette, Mich.

“We’re thankful because we were absolutely in jeopardy if the CPB cuts went through,” said Eric Smith, g.m. of WNMU. “But we’re relying on PTFP funds to make the final jump to digital so we hope the rest of it will be resolved.”

Nashville PTV President Steve Bass said he was surprised and thrilled to see nearly 40 percent of Republicans voting for the amendment. Bass credited constituent contacts and Leach’s co-sponsorship of the amendment.

Leach was not available for comment, but during the House session he spoke passionately about pubcasting’s value.
Americans will never agree on all matters of artistic taste, the Iowa legislator said, but “what we can all do is respect the honesty and quality and First Amendment rights. It is these qualities ... that public broadcasting symbolizes.”

System leaders hope to find comparable enthusiasm in the Senate as they work to restore Ready to Learn, which the House cut even though it had been in President Bush’s budget. The Senate will take up the CPB funding issue July 14.

However, Bass is among those who think the worst of the funding fight is over.

“Not to minimize the challenges ahead, but if you look at the impact of $100 million lost in the CPB appropriation this fall, it would have been really ugly,” he said. “That we were able to put that aside was really important.”

Red dogs, fat cats, billionaire birds

Days earlier, when pubcasters were mobilizing to oppose the House cutback, Hill staffers made it clear that stations would have to lead the way in restoring funding, Lawson said.

“The Senate gave us two messages,” he said. “They said, ‘One, we can’t restore a cut this large. And two, if you’re not going to fight for yourselves, why should we fight for you?’”

In response, more than 100 APTS member stations and a majority of NPR affiliates took to the airwaves, posted website notices and deployed e-mail lists to urge viewers and listeners to contact their senators and reps.

Some pubcasters were concerned about alienating generally supportive representatives by drumming up constituent calls, Bass said, but his contacts in Congress said the on-air alerts kept the issue “on the front burner.”

“To me, it was a no-brainer,” Bass said of the decision to appeal to viewers. The Nashville spot asked viewers if they thought pubcasting was worth $1 per citizen per year and directed them to contact their elected officials.

KERA in Dallas went “full bore” with TV and radio spots, e-mails and web posts, said Sharon Philippart, communications v.p. While pitching memberships during a pledge drive, on-air talent for Cleveland's WCPN-FM mentioned the proposed funding cuts during each break and referred listeners to the station's website for more details, according to Jerry Wareham, president.

Pubcasting also found support from advocacy groups that were already galvanized by the tales of CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson’s secretive efforts.

Cyber-organizer extraordinaire MoveOn.org gathered more than 1 million signatures in support of restoring funding, and groups such as Free Press continue to urge people to keep the pressure on to make up the remain-der in the Senate.
While the progressive groups proved helpful, pubcasters strove to remain nonpartisan in their pleas for help.

Things were different on Capitol Hill, however. At a rally starring PBS characters such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, congressional characters such as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.), derided Republicans’ quest to give cash to, in Dingell’s words, “fat cats” instead of “Big Red Dogs.”
“By slashing these programs, Republicans are pulling the rug out from under parents,” Clinton said.

Though many Republicans voted for the restored funding, the vocal ones tended to oppose it. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) argued that pubcasters are already rich from selling toys and need no more assistance. Her presentation included a poster of Big Bird wearing a top hat and surrounded by piles of cash.

“If we can’t get this billionaire out of the public trough, how can we cut spending?” she asked.

In another fruitless move on the other side of the aisle, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment June 24 to prohibit CPB officials from using federal funds “to exercise any direction, supervision or control” over pubcasting content or distribution. The measure failed 218-187.

Votes for Obey amendment,
June 23, 2005
Yes No Not voting
Republicans 87 140 3
Democrats 196 6 0
Independents 1    
Totals 284 140 9

Yes votes

Abercrombie
Ackerman
Aderholt
Alexander
Allen
Andrews
Baca
Baird
Baldwin
Barrow
Bean
Becerra
Berkley
Berman
Berry
Biggert
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Blumenauer
Boehlert
Bono
Boozman
Boren
Boswell
Boucher
Bradley (NH)
Brady (PA)
Brown (OH)
Brown, Corrine
Butterfield
Camp
Capito
Capps
Capuano
Cardin
Cardoza
Carnahan
Carson
Case
Castle
Chandler
Clay
Cleaver
Clyburn
Coble
Conyers
Cooper
Costa
Costello
Cramer
Crowley
Cubin
Cuellar
Cummings
Cunningham
Davis (AL)
Davis (CA)
Davis (FL)
Davis (IL)
Davis (TN)
Davis, Jo Ann
DeFazio
DeGette
Delahunt
DeLauro
Dent
Dicks
Dingell
Doggett
Doyle
Drake
Duncan
Edwards
Ehlers
Emanuel
Engel
English (PA)
Eshoo
Etheridge
Evans
Farr
Fattah
Ferguson
Filner
Fitzpatrick (PA)
Foley
Ford
Fossella
Frank (MA)
Frelinghuysen
Gallegly
Gerlach
Gibbons
Gilchrest
Gillmor
Gonzalez
Gordon
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Grijalva
Gutierrez
Hart
Hastings (FL)
Herseth
Higgins
Hinchey
Hinojosa
Holden
Holt
Honda
Hooley
Hoyer
Inglis (SC)
Inslee
Israel
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Jefferson
Jenkins
Johnson (CT)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones (OH)
Kanjorski
Kaptur
Kelly
Kennedy (MN)
Kennedy (RI)
Kildee
Kilpatrick (MI)
Kind
King (NY)
Kirk
Kolbe
Kucinich
Kuhl (NY)
LaHood
Langevin
Lantos
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Latham
LaTourette
Leach
Lee
Levin
Lewis (KY)
Lipinski
Lofgren, Zoe
Lowey
Lynch
Maloney
Marchant
Markey
Marshall
Matheson
Matsui
McCarthy
McCaul (TX)
McCollum (MN)
McCotter
McDermott
McGovern
McHugh
McIntyre
McKinney
McNulty
Meehan
Meeks (NY)
Melancon
Menendez
Michaud
Millender-McDonald
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Mollohan
Moore (KS)
Moore (WI)
Moran (KS)
Moran (VA)
Murphy
Murtha
Nadler
Napolitano
Neal (MA)
Ney
Nunes
Oberstar
Obey
Olver
Ortiz
Owens
Pallone
Pascrell
Pastor
Paul
Payne
Pelosi
Peterson (MN)
Peterson (PA)
Petri
Pickering
Platts
Pomeroy
Porter
Price (NC)
Pryce (OH)
Rahall
Ramstad
Rangel
Reichert
Renzi
Reyes
Reynolds
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Ross
Rothman
Roybal-Allard
Ruppersberger
Rush
Sabo
Salazar
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Sanders
Schakowsky
Schiff
Schwartz (PA)
Schwarz (MI)
Scott (GA)
Scott (VA)
Serrano
Shaw
Shays
Sherman
Sherwood
Shimkus
Simmons
Skelton
Slaughter
Smith (NJ)
Smith (WA)
Snyder
Sodrel
Solis
Spratt
Stark
Strickland
Stupak
Sweeney
Tanner
Tauscher
Taylor (MS)
Thomas
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Tiberi
Tierney
Towns
Udall (CO)
Upton
Van Hollen
Velázquez
Visclosky
Walden (OR)
Walsh
Wamp
Wasserman Schultz
Waters
Watson
Watt
Waxman
Weiner
Weldon (PA)
Wexler
Whitfield
Wolf
Woolsey
Wu
Wynn
Young (AK )

No votes

Akin
Bachus
Baker
Barrett (SC)
Bartlett (MD)
Barton (TX)
Beauprez
Bilirakis
Bishop (UT)
Blackburn
Blunt
Boehner
Bonilla
Bonner
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Brown (SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burgess
Burton (IN)
Buyer
Calvert
Cannon
Cantor
Carter
Chabot
Chocola
Cole (OK)
Conaway
Cox
Crenshaw
Culberson
Davis (KY)
Deal (GA)
DeLay
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Doolittle
Dreier
Emerson
Everett
Feeney
Flake
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx
Franks (AZ)
Garrett (NJ)
Gingrey
Gohmert
Goode
Goodlatte
Granger
Graves
Green (WI)
Gutknecht
Hall
Harris
Hastings (WA)
Hayes
Hayworth
Hefley
Hensarling
Herger
Hobson
Hoekstra
Hostettler
Hulshof
Hunter
Hyde
Issa
Istook
Jindal
Johnson, Sam
Jones (NC)
Keller
King (IA)
Kingston
Kline
Knollenberg
Lewis (CA)
Linder
LoBiondo
Lucas
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mack
Manzullo
McCrery
McHenry
McKeon
McMorris
Mica
Miller, Gary
Musgrave
Myrick
Neugebauer
Northup
Norwood
Nussle
Osborne
Otter
Oxley
Pearce
Pence
Pitts
Poe
Pombo
Price (GA)
Putnam
Radanovich
Regula
Rehberg
Rogers (MI)
Rohrabacher
Ros-Lehtinen
Royce
Ryan (WI)
Ryun (KS)
Saxton
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shadegg
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (TX)
Souder
Stearns
Sullivan
Tancredo
Taylor (NC)
Terry
Thornberry
Tiahrt
Turner
Weldon (FL)
Weller
Westmoreland
Wicker
Wilson (SC)
Young (FL)

Not voting

Bass
Boyd
Davis, Tom
Harman
Lewis (GA)
Meek (FL)
Ryan (OH)
Udall (NM)
Wilson (NM)

Reported with help from Karen Everhart
Web page posted June 27, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Current Publishing Committee

EARLIER ARTICLES

House Speaker previewed his 1995 fight to "zero-out" CPB funding in late 1994. But supporters of public broadcasting showered Congress with protesting letters.

RELATED ARTICLES

Over objections from the field, CPB Board hires former GOP official as president.

Ready to Learn funding was not rescued in the House, so pubTV is lobbying and bidding to keep grants for kidvid.

LINKS

NewsHour roundtable on CPB situation June 21, before the House vote.

The Organization of State Broadcasting Executives, representing 32 "primarily rural" pubcasting systems, urged CPB Chair Ken Tomlinson June 16 to speak out for full restoration of federal aid to pubcasting, without which stations will close in some rural communities. OSBE also noted: "...if it is not obvious to us that the search process [for the new CPB president] has been conducted in a professional, unbiased and transparent manner, how can we assure our constituents and our supporters of public broadcasting's journalistic integrity."

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