President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would totally eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS). Cutting PBS funding would be a significant blow to more than a thousand public stations across the country. Both Iowa Public Television and Iowa Public Radio would suffer severe cuts to their programing.
Local public radio and television broadcasters are predicting Trump’s cutting off of federal funds will be devastating for some affiliates. PBS explained that the cost to individual taxpayers is only $1.35 per year.
PBS President Patricia Harrison warned these cuts could cause “the collapse of the public media system itself.”
Neal Shapiro, President of WNET in New York, states, “It’s not like cutting this would have any appreciable effect on any taxpayer across the country, but losing PBS would … In a lot of markets, the only place for real in-depth local coverage is the PBS station, the only place for arts and culture, the only place for safe harbor for kids.”
Iowa Public Television Executive Director Molly Phillips warned it could cause them shut down several popular shows.
“It’s 17% of our budget, it pays for 25 people, and it touches all areas of public television,” she said. “Iowans will see much less, if any, local production … That’s where most of our employees out of that money are paid from, and so the ‘Iowa Press,’ the ‘Iowa Ingredient,’ the ‘Iowa Outdoors,’ all those kinds of things, they’re probably going to go away.”
Iowa Public Radio posted this information on their webpage about the effect of these cuts on their programing: “Iowa Public Radio receives a little more than $600,000 in federal funding. That is more than 50% of the $1.1 M we pay annually for all national programming, such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, A Prairie Home Companion, World Café and Performance Today. It would be a significant bite out of our budget. PBS currently pays for – the satellite system, music rights and more.”
Trump claims cutting PBS funding and many other domestic programs are necessary in order to keep America safe. His budget proposes taking the money saved by eliminating programs like PBS (about $500 million per year) and using these taxpayer savings to increase military spending by $54 billion.
Trump’s claim that it’s necessary to cut PBS in order to fund a huge increase in military spending has run into an interesting opponent. Retired Army General Stanley McCrystal wrote an editorial for the New York Times this week defending PBS children’s (Big Bird and friends) programming. McCrystal was a highly decorated military veteran serving in Afghanistan as Commander of the Joint Special Operation Command fighting Al-Qaeda in the mid-2000s. If anyone understands what it takes to keep America safe, McCrystal ranks near the top.
McCrystal’s editorial defends PBS funding, saying children’s programming makes America safer as well.
“Public broadcasting makes our nation smarter, stronger and, yes, safer. It’s a small public investment that pays huge dividends for Americans. And it shouldn’t be pitted against spending more on improving our military. That’s a false choice,” McCrystal wrote.
He makes a number of compelling points about the value of PBS in educating our youth and uniting the country.
“It’s a view that has been shaped by my career leading brave men and women who thrive and win when they are both strong and smart. My experience has taught me that education, trusted institutions and civil discourse are the lifeblood of a great nation,” said General McCrystal.
McCrystal also pointed to the importance of the singular quality that only PBS can offer, an advertising-free format. In addition, he recognized PBS as the only outlet providing free national programming.
“They (parents) want to protect their children from over-commercialized content. And they strive to prepare their children for school and lifelong learning. Having thoughtful television, games and other media that is not commercially driven is essential to good parenting … I’ve also seen research that PBS local stations reach more children ages 2 to 5 than any other children’s network, and the new dedicated PBS Kids channel is the only free national programming for children that is available anywhere and anytime, “ McCrystal added.
Political gridlock and deep political rifts that divide America are a great worry for all Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. Concerns about fake news and lack of institutional trust sharpens that division. McCrystal identifies the importance of PBS as a uniquely trusted institution by the American public.
“I’ve seen articles that say PBS and its member stations are ranked first in public trust among nationally known institutions. Why then would we degrade or destroy an institution that binds us together?” McCrystal asked.
If you believe PBS deserves continued federal funding, you can go to this website to sign a petition in support of PBS. http://protectmypublicmedia.org/
by Rick Smith