CPB funding will dip before rising to a new high

Adapted from Current, Sept. 22 and Oct. 6, 1997

Congress will bring CPB funding back into line with past levels, approving an appropriation of $300 million for fiscal year 2000 -- beginning two years from now, in October 1999.

The House approved the CPB payment Sept. 16 [1997] as part of the huge labor-health-education appropriations bill, which passed 346-80. The Senate had okayed the same $300 million amount Sept. 11.

This means that public broadcasting may have more federal aid ahead, but it is still taking relatively small cuts for two years, as the appropriation sinks from $260 million to $250 million for fiscal years 1998 and 1999. Thereafter, as a result of this month's votes, the sum will rise to $300 million. If that amount is not rescinded in the meantime, it will be CPB's high point in current dollars, though in inflation-adjusted spending power it will still come in 5 percent below the 1990 level of $229 million.

Two House conservatives attempted unsuccessfully in September to cut back aid to CPB, as they have in past years. Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) sought to cut the appropriation by $50 million, but was defeated 265-155. Rep. Philip Crane (R-Ill.) tried to eliminate CPB funding entirely, but lost 345-78.

Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that okays CPB spending, said both the past and present chairs of the authorizing subcommittee for CPB have opposed phasing out aid to pubcasting, changing House policy toward CPB, so Congress "cannot leave it dying on the vine."

Late in September, CPB's Board of Directors approved a fiscal 1998 budget that distributes the pain of the $10 million congressional funding cut.

Much of CPB's budget is allotted by a congressionally mandated formula that directs 89 percent of the appropriation to local radio and television stations, primarily through community service grants (CSGs). Public TV stations will receive $117 million, 5.7 percent less than last year in their CSGs. In addition, relatively recent CPB initiatives such as the Future Fund have created new grant-based incentives for stations to develop operating efficiencies and new sources of revenue. Three separate funds, which total $10 million, will be given to PTV stations with promising proposals.

CSGs for public radio stations total $37 million, or 2 percent less than last year, and the Radio Future Fund is budgeted at $3 million. Radio stations also will receive grants totalling $12.7 million, intended to help them buy national programming. The Radio Program Fund, which CPB administers, is budgeted at $3.8 million.

CPB will spend $41.7 million on television programs, 3.8 percent less than last year. All but two of the various organizations and program kitties to which CPB allocates its program dollars--the Independent Television Service, the Public Television Outreach Alliance, and the CPB/PBS Challenge Fund, among others--will receive uniform 3.8 percent reductions in their CPB support. The exceptions are PBS's National Program Service, which CPB by contract continues to fund at $22.5 million, and the corporation's spending on international activities, which was cut by 66 percent to $74,734.

Spending on general system support will total $15 million, also a 3.8 percent reduction. This covers such costs as music copyright fees, which CPB pays on behalf of the field.


To Current's home page

Later news: CPB promoted No. 2 executive Robert Coonrod to president.


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