President Donald Trump’s proposed new budget again calls for all but eliminating funding for public media, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen.
This is the fourth year in a row the White House has called for slashing funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding to public TV stations, PBS and NPR. Past proposals have been stopped in Congress, which sets budget levels for federal agencies. Even when Republicans held both chambers of Congress, lawmakers kept public media funding at its current level, roughly $445 million.
The White House’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget would scale back discretionary funding across the board while increasing military spending. The amount allocated for public media would be reduced to just $30 million. Public media advocates say that the CPB funding is especially essential for small- and medium- sized stations, the loss of which would threaten the structure of the PBS network.
The White House budget also eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, two agencies that also have been targets in recent years yet have survived.
Trump recently questioned NPR’s funding after his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, lashed out at one of its reporters, Mary Louise Kelly, for the questions that she posed to him during an interview.
After that confrontation, conservative radio host Mark Levin tweeted, “Why does NPR still exist? We have thousands of radio stations in the U.S. Plus Satellite radio. Podcasts. Why are we paying for this big-government, Democrat Party propaganda operation.”
Trump retweeted the comment and wrote, “A very good question!”
But public broadcasting has enjoyed broad support among lawmakers, who often turn to their local outlets for appearances on public affairs programming. Public media advocates also have been successful at mobilizing viewers to contact members of Congress when it looks like their funding is threatened.
Patricia Harrison, the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said in a statement that the federal outlay “is the foundation of our uniquely American, public-private partnership that supports our nation’s public media system.” She said that the federal appropriation is “seed money” that “pays invaluable dividends to millions of Americans and their families in the form of content and resources that educate, inform and inspire.”
In the federal spending bill that passed Congress in December, the CPB got a $20 million funding boost, the first increase in a decade.
Patrick Butler, the president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, said that they are hopeful that Congress will again increase public media funding for the next fiscal year “to restore the nearly $100 million in purchasing power public broadcasting lost over a decade of frozen funding.”
In the recent spending bill, the National Endowment for the Arts’ funding was increased by $7.25 million to $162.25 million, the largest amount in a decade. The National Endowment for the Humanities also received a similar increase.
Robert Lynch, the CEO of advocacy group Americans for the Arts, said that the NEA has given grants to every Congressional district throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories.
“It’s because of this that Congressional appropriators have chosen in the previous three years to reject the administration’s call for termination of the agency, and instead provided increased funding—in FY 2020, an additional $7.25 million in funds were added over FY 2019,” Lynch said in a statement. “I expect to see similar action by Congress this year, and hopefully a $7.75 million increase.”