A bipartisan pair of House members are urging appropriators to protect funds for public broadcasting amid the Trump administration’s budget proposal to eliminate its federal support.
Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) are circulating a letter calling for the programs’ continued funding after the White House called for defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in its budget last week.
They plan to urge the lawmakers in charge of the House Appropriations panel that oversees the CPB, which provides funds to public television and radio stations such as PBS and NPR and to Ready to Learn, an educational television and digital media program aimed at low-income school children, to ensure they’re fully funded.
The two lawmakers emphasized that rural communities would be hardest hit by cuts to public broadcasting.
“In rural areas, where public broadcasting stations can be the only source of free, high-quality local programming available to families, funding from CPB can amount to than half of some rural stations’ budgets. This is a gap that cannot be closed by increased underwriting revenue or donor support,” the letter states.
“Thanks to public broadcasting, Americans at all income levels and from all parts of the country — rural or urban — have access to consistent, high-quality content for free,” it adds.
Forty-three percent of public broadcasting station grantees receiving support are considered rural, according to the CPB. Those stations employ nearly 6,000 people and rely on CPB funding than stations in urban areas.
Trump’s budget would defund CPB, along with the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and than a dozen other agencies.
Conservatives have long targeted the agencies as an example of what they see as unnecessary government spending. But appropriators have ultimately provided funding for public broadcasting and the arts while Republicans controlled one or both chambers of Congress over the last six years.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a White House press briefing last week that cutting funds for public broadcasting is a reflection of priorities.
“I put myself in the shoes of that steelworker in Ohio, the coal-mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit, and I’m saying, OK, I have to go ask these folks for money and I have to tell them where I’m going to spend it,” Mulvaney said.
“Can I really go to those folks, look them in the eye and say, look, I want to take money from you and I want to give it to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting? That is a really hard sell, in fact, some of you don’t think we can defend any.”
Reichert and Blumenauer are trying to gain bipartisan signatories to the letter before formally sending it on April 6.