Donald Trump’s proposal to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities is reminiscent of President Nixon’s funding cut plan for PBS in 1969 — something a television personality fought against in front of the Senate.
On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers, a television personality from Pennsylvania, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications to argue why public television needed the federal support.
The host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” explained how important it was to make public television available to many people in the country, especially to children, to Senator John O. Pastore (D-R.I.). President Nixon wanted to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS) by half, according to Rare, from $20 million to $10 million to help meet the financial demands of the Vietnam War.
“This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique,” said Rogers. “I end the program by saying, ‘You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are,’” he went on to explain during his testimony. “And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”
He further explained that the proposed cut could be potentially damaging to children’s education. His PBS program then had a budget of $6,000.
“$6,000 pays for less than two minutes of cartoons,” Rogers said to the Senate. “Two minutes of animated, what I sometimes say, bombardment. I’m very much concerned, as I know you are, about what’s being delivered to our children in this country,” he added. “And I’ve worked in the field of child development for six years now, trying to understand the inner needs of children. We deal with such things as–as the inner drama of childhood. We don’t have to bop somebody over the head to … make drama on the screen.”
After listening to Rogers’ speech, Pastore was seemingly moved, enough to announce: “Well, I’m supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I’ve had goosebumps for the last two days.”
By the end of Rogers’ speech, Pastore said, “I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you earned the $20 million.”
On Thursday, President Trump targeted the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities for complete elimination in his first proposed budget.
The budget would also eliminate the budgets for both national endowments, which stood at $148 million each in 2016, as well as $230 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports libraries and museums. Additional cuts would affect two tourist mainstays in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.
Combined, the four arts organizations account for less than 0.02 percent of the U.S. government’s $4.6 trillion budget.
Watch the video above.