President Trump's budget slashes support for funder of NPR, PBS and public radio stations

The Trump administration's budget blueprint, released this morning, proposes to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds NPR and PBS, as well as many public radio and television stations across the United States.

In a section on page 11 labeled "major agency budget highlights," the budget summary lists the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as among the independent agencies that will be defunded, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Funding from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting makes up about less than 1 percent of NPR's annual operating budget. But it comprises about 9 percent of revenue for public radio stations across America, and dues from member stations provided about 39 percent of NPR's revenue from 2014 to 2016.

In 2014, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting spent $74.63 million on television programming grants, which go to broadcasts like "Frontline" and "PBS Newshour." Half of its $445 million federal appropriation went to local public television stations, and $15.6 million went to local public radio stations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting also partners with local news organizations to fund journalism. Since 2009, CPB has invested more than $27 million to launch 22 local, regional and single-topic collaborations and newsroom operations, according to its website. Those span 113 public media stations in 40 states.

In a statement, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said the cuts would "devastate and ultimately destroy" public media's role in providing civically focused information.

"There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services," read the statement, from Patricia Harrison, the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions — all for Americans in both rural and urban communities."

The statement says that the corporation will work with the Trump administration and Congress to emphasize that "elimination of federal funding to CPB begins the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service."

In a email to employees Thursday morning, NPR Chief Operating Officer Loren Mayor said that the broadcaster is "following the situation closely" and that "today’s news, while serious, does not represent the end of the story."

"Millions of Americans depend on their local public radio station for the fact-based, objective, public service journalism they need to stay informed about the world and about the news in their own communities," Mayor wrote. "Public media serves the public interest with essential educational, news and cultural programming not found anywhere else, as well as vital information during local and regional emergencies. Federal funding is an essential ingredient to making this possible."

Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS, issued a statement that touted the tradition of bipartisan support for public television.

"PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country," the statement read. "We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting."

Where do things go from here? The spending for Trump's proposed budget wouldn't go into effect until Oct. 1, but the budget approved during the Obama administration expires on April 28. That means Congress must pass two budgets over the coming weeks and months: A short-term budget, to fund the federal government from April 29 to Sept. 30, and a long-term budget for the fiscal year that begins in October.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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