PBS was surely not surprised to see that President Donald Trump’s proposed 2019 budget, just as it did last year, included a proposal to strip funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which subsidizes public media.
On Monday, the organization put out a statement protesting the proposal. “Public broadcasting has earned bipartisan congressional support over the years thanks to the value we provide to taxpayers,” CEO Paula Kerger said in the statement. “PBS, our 350 member stations and our legions of local supporters will continue to remind leaders in Washington of the significant benefits the public receives in return for federal funding, a modest investment of about $1.35 per citizen per year, which include school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, public safety communications and lifelong learning.”
She continued: “PBS is focused on providing high-quality content and universal public service to the American people, which is why we enjoy strong support in every region of the country, in both rural and urban areas, and across the political spectrum.”
Last year, in meetings with concerned PBS staffers, Kerger made clear that the organization would be able to function without federal government assistance, which makes up only a small portion of the organization’s funding. She pointed out, for example, that PBS was also “zeroed out,” funding-wise, during George W. Bush’s administration.
While PBS can make due without receiving money from the government, the member stations that produce the content that PBS distributes are in a more perilous position. Some stations, particularly those in more rural areas of the country, are hamstrung by even small budget cuts.
Trump’s budget, of course, is considered to be just a starting point, and the final product will be worked out by Congress.
The relevant section in this year’s budget proposal narrative is as follows: “The Budget proposes to eliminate funding for several independent agencies and other federal entities, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as part of the Administration’s plan to move the Nation towards fiscal responsibility and to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government. The Budget requests up to $30 million over two years to conduct an orderly closeout of Federal funding for the Corporation beginning with $15 million in fiscal year 2019. The request includes funding for personnel, rental, and other necessary close-out costs.”