U.S. Rep. Brady wants to eliminate federal funding for NPR, PBS

Posted on: February 14th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 6 Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinAs part of the $32 billion GOP House majority budget plan released late last week, programs such as job training, the Environmental Protection Agency and public broadcasting face the chopping block, as reported by our sister publication the Colorado Independent. While public interest groups and newspaper editorials around the country decry the $400 million-plus in slashes to local public radio and television stations, one Texas congressman stands in firm support of eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the more-than-four-decades-old government-created nonprofit that allocates money to NPR and PBS.

Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady’s H.R. 235, named the “Cut Unsustainable and Top-Heavy Spending Act” (or CUTS Act), is described by the author as a “down payment” on getting America’s financial books in order.

Brady, who is Vice Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and a senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee, also moves to shrink the federal workforce by 10 percent, cut White House and Congressional budgets, freeze pay for federal workers and Congress and slice defense spending in his CUTS Act.

In a recent NPR interview among the presidents of NPR, PBS and CPB, Brady justified his decision to defund the CPB, arguing that in light of the $1.4 trillion deficit we “simply can’t afford it anymore.”

He said:

“And so it’s not an issue of the value of NPR because in truth, you know, your programming in many ways is wonderful. It reaches 98 percent of Americans. I have a world community as well as a suburban community. Our Houston region is well represented through NPR. The question is how can we get back to a country that has its financial house in order without making difficult cuts? And unfortunately, NPR is one of them […]”

When asked how stations with few resources out in the Midwest would survive without government seed money, Brady responded it would be “up to the leadership of the corporation” to set priorities, as businesses do. With a strong fundraising arm, CPB wouldn’t have a problem offsetting the percentage of federal funds with private sector money, Brady said.

The Texas congressman is not alone in his pursuit to eliminate public broadcasting funding. Six other U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that would cut all funding for NPR and PBS, and pull the plug on similar public media outlets. They include H.R. 68 and H.R. 69 by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.), the “Spending Reduction Act,” by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio); S 178, the Senate version of the “Spending Reduction Act,” sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.); and S. 162, the “Cut Federal Spending Act,” by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Media reform organization Free Press called the cuts an attack on independent journalism and a blow to rural and economically hard-hit areas where there are fewer sources of news and programming.

“We need strong, independent media now more than ever. Our citizens depend on the public broadcasting’s vital reporting, and our children rely on its educational programming,” said Josh Stearns, associate program director for the Free Press Action Fund in a statement.

“Politicians who support these cuts are turning their backs on their own districts and risk leaving their constituents in the lurch. Congress should reject these cuts and stop meddling in what the public says, in poll after poll, are their most trusted sources of news and information.”

John Hesse, general manager of the local Houston PBS affiliate, said CPB funding provides 14 percent of the station’s budget, or roughly $1.4 million dollars. For every federal dollar the TV outlet receives, it raises six dollars. The ripple effect would be devastating for the station, said Hesse, but hardest hit will be many of the smaller local stations, which depend on a greater share of that federal money. Those outlets would likely not survive if the cuts are made, he said.

“[Brady] has always been very supportive of us in past, but I am surprised that [the cuts] are in his bill,” said Hesse, whose station’s programming covers constituents in Brady’s Congressional District 8 in Southeast Texas. “It’s understandable, but the problem is the value PBS brings to the table is for the most part, being overlooked.”

“It would be a disaster for our country if we were to take steps backward by eliminating CPB funding,” he said.

Hesse points to children’s programming that intellectually readies kids before they enter school as one example of the network’s vast contributions to the nation’s education landscape.

“It’s easy to say we can survive in the marketplace, but while most programming is ‘eyeballs to advertisers,’ we are here to serve the public, especially the underserved. We cannot survive in a commercial market alone. The CPB provides very important seed money to help us keep going,” Hesse said.

[Image by: Matt Mahurin]

Tags: , , , , , , ,