Mar 27, 2017
One of the unsurprising budget cuts unveiled by OMB director Mulvaney was to eliminate funding for Corporation for Public Broadcasting which funds the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). That government outlay is roughly $500 million dollars.
There are many other government programs targeted to be axed, which in total won't begin to pay for the massive defense spending expansion, but today I want to focus on PBS.
Oddly enough, while I am a big fan and watch a lot of PBS, I think this battle may not be worth fighting. Ending government funding will not shut down public TV or radio. What it will do is devastate rural PBS and NPR stations.
Seventy percent of CPB's funding flows out to member stations, where it contributes a whopping 35% of local station revenue. That said, my feeling is rural America no longer puts a high priority on these services. Local PBS coverage may sadly disappear for all but larger cities, but I don't hear farm or rural voices offering much support to prevent this outcome.
Like many other targeted government services, rural America may be about to find out who actually benefited most from those services. Larger stations like WGHB in Boston or WETA in Washington will almost certainly survive.
Meanwhile the changes in how we watch TV may compensate by switching viewers to internet streaming rather than broadcasting. This admittedly brutal financial shock could create a more powerful and independent communications voice sustained by individual resources that could pursue journalism and content production on their own terms.
Just like farmers and farm subsidies, public broadcasting is chafes under government oversight, always in the crosshairs of ideological opposition in congress. While I feel much will be lost, especially for lower income Americans living outside population centers, unless I'm missing something, this concern is not widely shared by my country neighbors.
Maybe it's time to plan on rebuilding public broadcasting from the consequences of short-sighted legislation.