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New York GM Says "Radio Jobs Will be Lost if Congress Cuts CPB Funding"

February 24, 2011

by Ed Ryan

It's like a scripted play they have in their desk drawer ready to be pulled out, dusted off, rehearsed and performed. General managers all around the country are organizing to defend the threat being made by Republicans in the House of Representatives to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB receives about $420 million from the federal government. The reasons for taking away the money are many, including, accusations that the CPB is too left leaning or that other TV and Radio stations do not receive tax dollars so why should the CPB. In its current form, the bill would withdraw any obligation on the part of Congress to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Laura Walker is the CEO and President of New York Public Radio, which includes WNYC AM , WNYC FM (both news/talk) and WQXR (classical music). It's one of the largest public radio organizations in the United States and receives over $3 million in tax  money. Walker says that would be tough to replace. "That would affect us by having to either raise the money from alternate sources or by decreasing news coverage and other things we've spent a lot of time and effort building up. I would say for some of my colleagues the CPB supports them up to 60% of their budgets. This could actually mean that some radio stations will have to close their doors, and not be serving their local communities".     

Mary Anne Alhadeff  is the CEO and President of North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA TV, KERA 90.1, and KKXT 91.7). She says 11 percent of the annual operating budget for the organization comes from federal funding through the CPB and the loss of that money would be devastating. "Definitely the loss of this 11 percent would have a significant impact on staffing, programs and services. For instance, KERA 90.1 is programmed with a mix of nationally distributed programs and our own locally produced shows. We would need to re-evaluate that program lineup and associated costs – in fact, we would need to re-evaluate the entire organization’s annual operating expenses and revenue sources. NTPB is an independent community licensee, so we can’t look to a parent organization for assistance. Wouldn’t it be great if the loss of federal funding could be offset by local stations and national program producers by immediate sustainable gains in private support and corporate sponsorship? The key words are immediate and sustainable, and it is a significant amount of money".

In South Florida, Rick Johnson of WGCU says a whopping 40% of his programming budget comes from the feds. "Needless to say, the loss of that federal support would severely impact the quality and level of service that we provide". Johnson says half the staff would half to be let go if that budget is wiped out.

To the argument that NPR is a left-wing democratic machine Walker says NPR is one of the most trusted news sources in the country and so is New York Public Radio. "If you look at the Pew study in 2010, it found that 72% feel that most news sources are biased, but they don’t feel that way about public broadcasting. So I would say ask the public.  NPR is statistically one of the most trusted news sources available. Anywhere. If you look at that same report about NPR, our credibility in the last ten years has actually risen significantly from 18% to 28%. Where as others have declined or stayed stagnant. So you’re looking at a news organization whose credibility has really risen. I don’t see, as a news organization, how we are biased one way or another".

Stations all around the country are well organized to beat back the Republicans, rallying their members and listeners to call congress and ask them to back off. NPR affiliated websites show videos from General Managers about what will happen in their local community or how to get in touch with their local congressman or a link to a national website called 170millionamericans.org. That's the number of listeners/viewers the stations say they have nation wide. That's a pretty good size constituency.

Johnson says he has run spots on radio and TV that alert listeners and viewers to the facts and ask them to contact their electedr epresentatives and let them know their feelings about whether or not federal support for public broadcasting should continue. "We are also encouraging our listeners and viewers to check out the 170millionamericans.org website and consider joining this public broadcasting advocacy organization".

Alhadeff  says it's important to inform the public about the possible funding cuts. "They need to be aware about the House decision and the upcoming Senate vote and make their opinions heard. Public broadcasting could radically change if federal funding was eliminated, not only for the local stations who meet community needs, but also for CPB, NPR and other program providers. We have been getting the word out through on-air spots, our website, e-communications, the Board of Directors, the station’s Community Advisory Board, and participation in the 170millionamericans initiative".

As to whether or not this will actually happen, Alhadeff says we've been in this play before. "The citizens who clearly recognize the irreplaceable value of public broadcasting in their communities stepped forward and let their voices be heard.  We ask now that the members of Congress and the President listen to their constituents and thoroughly and carefully consider the short- and longer-term implications of this critical decision."

The CPB was founded in 1967, in order to “complement, assist, and support a national policy that will most effectively make public telecommunications services available to all citizens of the United States.” It provides funding to NPR and PBS, as well as local member stations around the United States.


 

 




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