Suggesting the cuts could threaten the news, local programming or even the survival of 200 TV and radio stations, public broadcasters fired back at the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday, which voted to cut $115 million from the federal appropriation for noncommercial broadcasting, a 23% cut in the 2007 appropriation.
The appropriation is administered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Included in the cuts is funding for the DTV transition, all the money for the Ready To Learn program, whose funding of Postcards From Buster caught flack last year in a highly public funding fight, as well as the Ready to Teach complementary effort targeted at teachers.
CPB President Patricia Harrison was politic in her comments, but clearly not happy: "While we appreciate the difficult choices confronting the Appropriations Committee," she said in response to the cuts. "We are disappointed with the funding levels contained in the current House Labor-HHS bill. A twenty-plus percent cut, amounting to 104.5 million dollars, will impact all CPB programs, and undermine public broadcasting’s ability to continue to offer essential educational services and provide a backbone for a national emergency alert system.”
Putting a sharper point on his criticism was John Lawson, president of the Association of Public Television Stations: "These cuts are also targeted to inflict maximum damage," he said. "The action by the House Subcommittee today shows a blatant disregard for the millions of Americans who voiced their support of public broadcasting to Congress last year. The Subcommittee is also ignoring 67 percent of its colleagues in the House who voted last year to reject similarly disastrous funding cuts. I guess we’ll have to start ringing phones on the Hill again."
The same committee last year proposed cutting $223 million form CPB, including for Ready to Learn and digital transition, but the Senate restored those cuts after protests led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), among others.
“This markup represents significant cuts to public broadcasting that will drastically reduce the programming and services public television and public radio can provide to local communities," said new PBS President Paula Kerger.
"“The impact of today’s decision could resonate in every community in America," added NPR President Kevin Klose.
Anti-media consolidation activist group Free Press saw the cuts as a threat to diversity of news outlets.
"Americans across the political spectrum aren't willing to abandon public broadcasting, or to allow it to turn it into a purely commercial enterprise," said Executive Director Josh Silver. "Congress must restore full funding to public broadcasting or risk losing a source of news and information that Americans say, in poll after poll, is the most trusted in America."