The latest revision of House Resolution 1, the House of Representatives' budget-cutting bill for the 2011 fiscal year, removes all federal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB is the federal corporation that distributes funds to public broadcasting systems like PBS and NPR.
The resolution is aimed at trimming the entire federal budget and, in February, the resolution was passed in House and is now in the hands of the Senate.
While the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a separate entity from PBS (which in turn is, in most instances, separate from locally-owned public television stations), the Corporation provides a substantial portion of the operating budget for both local stations and public-focused content creators. The elimination of the CPB would make it almost impossible for local PBS affiliates to remain on the air.
Currently, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's annual budget is $422 million. $210 million is split among 350 local public TV stations for operating costs, $71 million goes to the creation of television programming, and $94 million is reserved for NPR and radio programming.
The elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be a sweeping cut that would affect hundreds of millions of Americans. PBS is an important player in the national media, and the only one without a profit-based agenda. Not to mention, PBS represents the primary source of educational programming for low-income children and adults.
PBS also creates some of the most influential news and entertainment programs in the country, like Frontline, Masterpiece Theatre, and Austin City Limits.
The Public Broadcasting Service also imports shows from all over the world to fill out its schedule; without public television, many Americans would never have been introduced to Doctor Who, Mr Bean, or Are You Being Served. While not as large or influential, PBS is America's answer to the BBC.
PBS had this to say about the legislation:
The elimination of funding for public broadcasting approved by the House of Representatives threatens millions of citizens throughout America with the loss of services that they rely on, especially parents and children. PBS' nearly 360 member stations will be severely impacted... PBS and independently owned and operated public television stations are America’s largest classroom, available to all of America’s children. PBS' educational programming... prepare[s] children for success in school and opens up the world to them in an age-appropriate way and builds critical skills in young students. Costing about one dollar per person per year, public broadcasting is an effective, efficient use of leveraged tax dollars – a public-private partnership that delivers far-reaching services that Americans trust and value.”
PBS Kids Creative Director Chris Bishop released this infographic to illustrate the impact that PBS has on America - click for a larger version:
House Republicans have also passed a bill to cut funding specifically for National Public Radio - after a series of gaffes brought the network's objectivity into question. The bill is not attached to major legislation like the provisions in HR1, and is expected to be beaten in the Senate.
While the total elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is extremely unlikely while Democrats control the Senate and the presidency, substantial cuts are indeed possible. The budget-conscious nature of the electorate may mean hard times for PBS and its affiliates in the coming years.