TCA: PBS CEO On Congress De-Funding

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

More programming notes to come from PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger’s TCA session today. But the executive had blunt words about an issue that threatens the organization as a whole: This week’s attack in Congress on federal funding for PBS. On Tuesday, House Republicans proposed zeroing out PBS funding by 2015. Kerger called it “disappointing” that federal funding is being challenged “in the same week that PBS received 58 (primetime) Emmy nominations” and warned that there are a number of stations in underserved areas “that will go dark” if federal funding is significantly slashed.

Kerger said the funding proposal, which comes from the House Appropriations Committee and also would affect funding for NPR, is a complicated one. She said it may be debated next week but she does not think the budget issue will be resolved until after the presidential election. However, whether or not PBS is “zeroed out” in the future, Kerger believes that any major budget cuts would lead to the loss of some PBS stations. Federal funding represents 15% of the PBS budget, but given local differences in how some stations are funded, federal funding can represent 50-60% of the budget for some stations, she said.

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“The reason we fight so hard is there are a number of stations that will go dark in parts of the country where the services are so critical. That’s really what’s at risk,” she said. “Stations in larger markets will be impacted, but I think the real implications for us as a county is that it would eliminate public broadcasting in areas where I know it’s tremendously used.”

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