WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s proposal to eliminate funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would most dramatically affect rural and minority communities, eventually forcing some local television and radio stations to close, the corporation’s president and chief executive officer told Congress Tuesday.
The president’s budget would eliminate $445 million in federal funds for the non-profit corporation, which supports programs such as Sesame Street, Frontline and documentaries from filmmaker Ken Burns.
Patricia de Stacy Harrison, the president and chief executive officer for the corporation, said federal funding generally represents 10 percent to 15 percent of a public broadcasting station’s budget, but can represent as much as 80 percent of the annual budget for some stations.
Harrison said stations serving rural and minority communities don’t have the kind of in-depth donor base that would allow them to overcome the loss of federal funding.
“There would be a domino effect and it would start with rural stations,” Harrison said.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting distributes its federal funding through grants to more than 1,400 radio and television stations around the country. The corporation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the law that created it. Funding for the parent organization of the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio has remained flat for several years.
On Capitol Hill, Harrison was generally greeted with a supportive audience. Rep. Tom Cole, the Republican chairman of the panel reviewing the president’s budget request, told Harrison that “this is an agency we all admire.”
“We do have tough decision ahead of us, but I think you make your case very well,” said the Oklahoma lawmaker.
Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said in Washington, bad ideas never die. She called the effort to cut funding another effort to “give Bert and Ernie a pink slip.”
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said that in a time of shrinking resources, he had questions about how the Corporation for Public Broadcasting could support programs such a Kumu Hina, a story of a transgender native Hawaiian teacher.
“I beg you, please remove the agenda from education,” Harris said. “This has to be neutral content.”
“Maybe we don’t get it right 100 percent of the time but I’m willing to bet we get it right 90 percent,” Harrison said.
She said the corporation can prove it makes a difference, particularly for those families that can’t afford cable.
“But 1 percent poisons the well,” Harris said.