Just a few years after Mitt Romney threatened Big Bird with his life, Donald Trump is offering to finish the job.
Trump’s newly proposed budget will rip away all federal funding for public broadcasting. In the budget, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which funds both PBS and NPR, is on the chopping block, as are other arts organization like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
As has been pointed out many times, the CPB’s portion of the federal budget around $445 million is an incredibly small percentage (about one one-hundredth of a percent) of the entire budget. And while the cut would have an effect on PBS and NPR budgets, those aren’t where the most drastic cuts would be felt.
As the Washington Post reports, of the $442 million distributed by the CPB in 2014, only around $43 million went to those PBS and NPR. The funding makes up around seven percent of PBS’s annual budget and less than one percent for NPR.
But the YUGE chunk of that funding nearly $400 million actually went to local public broadcast stations. And the Post notes that nearly half of that funding, $186 million, went to stations in states that voted for Trump in 2016.
It’s another case of the GOP shooting themselves in the foot, though it’d be hard to feel bad for the same group that wants to cut funding to Meals on Wheels.
Stations in large urban areas, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, would be less affected by those cuts because of a larger, more-giving donor base. On the flip-side, stations in poorer rural areas that depend on federal funding for a higher percentage of their annual budget would be more significantly affected.
Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the CPB, emphasized this in a statement on Thursday: “The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroypublic medias role inearly childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”
The same goes for organizations who stand to lose out big thanks to cuts to like the NEA. Speaking to KPCC, a public radio station in California, Los Angeles County Arts Commission executive director Laura Zucker pointed out, Small-sized organizations with budgets under $350,000 a year receive 30 percent of the National Endowment for the Arts direct grants.”
Zucker notes that many smaller organizations that rely on federal funds are located in poor neighborhoods. This makes them not only more susceptible to cuts (because they can’t rely on heavy private donations), but also to experiencing a larger negative effect on the community when they’re forced to close.
In a statement, NEA chair Jane Chu said of the proposed cuts, “We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.”
Of course, conservatives don’t see it that way, lumping all of these organizations into the group of liberal bias as many media outlets they dislike.
The CPB is preparing to fight the budget cuts just as they’ve had to do in the past. But it’ll be an uphill battle with not very much time left. The current budget expires April 28, meaning a short-term budget will need to be in place by then to prevent at least a partial shut down.
The deadline for the 2018 budget to be passed is October 1 and there’s a sense of pessimism that the budget won’t be passed in time. But those feelings are just par for the course in the wake of these proposed cuts.