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House lawmakers propose de-funding public broadcasting stations, initiatives

A proposed appropriations bill for next year would remove hundreds of millions of dollars for a non-profit organization that financially supports small- and rural-area public TV and radio stations.

A proposed appropriations bill for next year would remove hundreds of millions of dollars for a non-profit organization that financially supports small- and rural-area public TV and radio stations.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chris Jantsch, Wikimedia Commons; Graphic by The Desk)
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chris Jantsch, Wikimedia Commons; Graphic by The Desk)

A federal legislative committee tasked with appropriating taxpayer funds for educational, health and labor initiatives has proposed eliminating more than $600 million for public media outlets.

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies released its appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2025, through which the Republican-led group proposed removing financial support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), starting two years later.

The move would result in a loss of $535 million for CPB, the non-profit that distributes financial assistance to more than 1,400 public radio and television stations across the country. The move could significantly impact smaller radio and TV stations that rely on federal funding due to a lack of corporate grants and individual member donations in their broadcast areas, and may lead to some smaller PBS, APM and NPR member stations and multicultural broadcast outlets to close.

The proposed bill also eliminates around $60 million that would be used for infrastructure improvement and interconnection across program distributors and regional stations and networks. It also does not reference information about providing continued funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Learn initiative, which offers competitive grants to support the production and distribution of educational TV and radio programming.

Patrick Butler, the CEO of the non-profit broadcast advocacy group America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), said the organization was “profoundly disappointed and mystified that the subcommittee has, once again, proposed to eliminate federal funding for public media in the FY 2025 appropriations bill.”

“We’re the only preschool education there is for more than half of America’s children,” Butler said in a statement sent to The Desk. “We’re the backbone of the national Wireless Alert System, and we’re partners in public safety initiatives from Maryland to California. We’re the last local media chronicling life in heartland America, and the C-SPAN [equivalent] of state governments. And the American people consistently rank us among the best investments the government makes, after only national defense and food and drug safety. Yet here we are, still struggling to maintain a federal appropriation that amounts to about $1.60 per American.”

Butler said APTS remains “hopeful that the strong bipartisan support for public media, both in Congress and among the American people, will ultimately result in full funding for CPB, system interconnect and infrastructure, and Ready to Learn as the appropriations process moves forward.”

It is not the first time House lawmakers proposed an appropriations bill that eliminated funding for public TV and radio. Around this time last year, the same committee also proposed a budget that zeroed out funding for CPB and various other initiatives.

Ultimately, that appropriations bill was amended over time to include funds that allows the CPB to continue operating through 2026 and provides financial investments for other initiatives related to public broadcasting. The House of Representatives passed the modified budget in March by a vote of 339 to 85.

The CPB has drawn the ire of conservative lawmakers in both chambers of Congress for more than two decades, with their specific concerns focused on news and current events programming produced and distributed by NPR, PBS and some individual member stations.

The criticism skyrocketed in 2021 when a character on the popular PBS children’s television program “Sesame Street” announced they received a vaccine to ward off the effect of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Some lawmakers, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, accused Sesame Street of spreading “government propaganda for your 5-year-old.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.

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