House Appropriators Defy Trump on Funding Public Broadcasting


Sesame Street

Big Bird can rest easy under a House spending bill that preserves funding for public broadcasting, despite the White House’s recommendation to kill it in a budget blueprint earlier this year.

It’s no surprise that House budget writers left funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports local public television and radio stations and provides some funding for PBS, unscathed in their spending legislation, despite President Donald Trump’s call to eliminate it. Many local TV and radio stations that rely heavily on direct CPB funding are in rural, red states, a reality that can shore up support from GOP lawmakers even if they chafe at the idea of a media subsidy.

That $445 million for CPB included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, matches the advance funding in fiscal 2017, according to the House Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill July 19, 28-22.

Fiscal hawks tend to see public media as a natural target for cuts—an arts-and-culture amenity that’s nonessential compared to spending on defense and other government functions. Public media opponents, meanwhile, argue the government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing certain television and radio stations.

But the view of supporters who have long-argued that public broadcasting provides important education and enrichment for Americans has prevailed – so far. The House and Senate must both pass final versions of the 2018 appropriations bills, which Trump must sign, before they become law.

The group America’s Public Television Stations said the funds in the House bill, including $25.7 million in fiscal 2018 for an educational grant program and $445 million for CPB in fiscal 2020, are “essential to local public television stations’ public service missions and to ensuring that everyone everywhere in America has access to these essential services.”

Still, the group didn’t get everything it wanted. The bill wouldn’t fund a distribution system that connects local stations across the U.S., providing a conduit for public safety alerts and national programming.

“We remain hopeful that as the appropriations process moves forward, the needed $55 million for Interconnection in FY 2018 will be provided,” the group said in a statement yesterday.