CPB's Forward Funding Restored

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CPB has gotten its 2008 funding back, but cuts to programming for kids shows, the digital switch, and more remain.

The House Approprations Committee late Thursday restored CPB's forward funding for 2008, and at the full $400 million it had asked for.

That was thanks to an amendment--to a larger appropriations bill--introduced by ranking Democrat David Obey of Wisconsin--that passed on voice vote, after which the larger bill passed. The full House is expected to take up the bill next week.

Obey and Democrat Nita Lowey (NY), both argued strongly to reinstate the money.

Obey said PBS was virtually the only source for quality educational children's TV, reading a list of noncommercial broadcasters and the money they would lose, including a $500,000-plus hit to his own Wisconsin Public Television.

Lowey held up Bert & Ernie dolls, evoking a noncom budget cut several years back--eventually restored--that prompted a Washington visit by the venerable Sesame Street characters.

CPB's advance funding was meant to be some insulation from the politics of having to go to Congress every year with that tin cup in hand, but Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) said scrapping the forward funding had been meant to send a signal that "it doesn't work that way."

Last week, another House appropriations committee had voted to cut FY2006 funding by a quarter and zero out funds for the Ready to Learn Department of Education kids TV grant, as well as for the digital switch and satellite interconnection. Those cuts remain in the bill as passed Thursday, though Obey expressed the hope they would, too, would be restored when the full House took up the bill.

Cutting all the funds to Ready to Learn (RTL), which the Bush administration had proposed funding essentially at current levels, was seen as a signal of Republican's displeasure both with the Postcards From Buster RTL episode featuring lesbian parents and of its perception that PBS kids programming in general was not sufficiently grounded in the three R's.

The administration has been pushing for results-based educational TV, which dovetails with its Standards of Learning approach to primary and secondary schools. DOE is the primary funder of RTL

Restoring CBP's forward funding may have been greased by the fact that, because it is for 2008, it doesn't have to be balanced by other cuts in the bill, which deals with education, labor and HHS appropriations for fy2006.

Although the $20 million-plus RTL grant may indeed resurface on the House floor, some other program will have to be cut to get the money, and the bill is "already pretty tight," said a Democratic staffer.

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