Public Broadcasting Expects a Mere ‘Haircut’ in New Budget

Funding for ‘Sesame Street,’ PBS NewsHour and other public-television programming will remain relatively intact following an intense debate in Congress

Funding for ‘Sesame Street,’ the PBS NewsHour and other public-television programming will remain relatively intact following an intense debate in Congress.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides grants to public television and radio stations across the country, expects to receive a reduction of just under $1 million this fiscal year, Bruce Ramer, CPB board chairman said late Tuesday.

“Everybody gets a .2 percent cut,” said Ramer, calling the reduction of about $860,000 a “haircut” at the CPB meeting of directors.

In statement on Friday, CPB president and chief executive Pat Harrison reminded supporters and independent producers that they must continue to advocate for funding.

"As we immediately begin work on the FY 2012 budget and appropriations process, it is important that we continue to educate each Member of Congress about your station, your service and your importance to your community," Harrison said.

Last fall, Congress allocated $430 million for the budget year ending Sept. 30, 2011.  The legislation also provides $445 million for CPB’s fiscal year 2013 advance appropriation. CPB is a non-profit corporation Congress created in 1967 to promote public broadcasting.

The decision to retain funding for public broadcasting is part of the 11th-hour deal Congress brokered last week to avert a government shutdown. Congress is expected to pass a bill Friday that funds the government the rest of this year while shaving $38 billion off the 2011 budget.

In the midst of the dealmaking, some lawmakers called for zeroing out public-broadcasting funding.  

“We seem to have dodged a major bullet,” Ramer said. “We should thank those in the House and Senate who understand the value of public media.”

Despite the victory, board members expressed a desire to develop a permanent effort against future threats to funding.  

“We can’t constantly be in this defensive mode every time we are under attack,” said Chris Boskin, a media consultant whose career includes marketing positions in the magazine publishing industry.

Efforts to end taxpayer funding for public media has surfaced over the years, but in the face of rising national debt and a Congress determined to cut spending, taxpayer support for public media has received greater scrutiny.   

In a resolution passed in March, Congress eliminated funding for a program that helps public broadcasting stations purchase equipment to get back on air after natural disasters.