The Corporation for Public Broadcasting urged Congress and President Trump on Thursday to reconsider the proposal to eliminate all federal funding to the CPB, which supports NPR and PBS.
CPB president Patricia Harrison said in a statement that there was “no viable substitute for federal funding” that could help the CPB provide free public media programming, which was slashed from the budget that Trump released Thursday.
“The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions – all for Americans in both rural and urban communities,” Harrison wrote.
She added: “We will work with the new Administration and Congress in raising awareness that elimination of federal funding to CPB begins the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service.”
Harrison argued that the CPB was cheap, saying that it costs taxpayers just $1.35 per person a year, and “especially critical for those living in small towns and in rural and underserved areas” who rely on its networks for news and education programming, as well as emergency alerts it releases.
The CPB accounts for far less than 1% of the federal government’s annual budget (it was allocated $445 million in 2016). The organization divvies up the money among hundreds of local public television and radio stations across the US, which license national programs such as NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
For its part, PBS implied that it had a universal appeal to many Americans that can be rare in the age of media bifurcation.
“PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” the network said in a statement on Thursday. “We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting.”
Trump’s proposed elimination of funds for the CPB, as well as other groups like the National Endowment for the Arts, represents one of the biggest drawdowns of federal government spending in several decades.
While the budget proposes large spending cuts to many government agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department budgets would be cut 31% and 28%, respectively – defense and military spending would increase substantially.
The president proposed a $54 billion increase to the Department of Defense’s 2018 budget – a 9% bump – as well as similar increases to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.
In an interview on MSNBC on Thursday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended the cuts, denying that they would “hurt Americans lives” and saying that Trump was honoring the promises he made during the 2016 campaign to reform the federal government.
“We went back and pulled lines out of speeches, out of interviews, talked to the president. And we turned his words, his policies, into numbers,” Mulvaney said. “So folks who voted for the president are getting exactly what they voted for. Those are the numbers he campaigned on.”
He added: “One of the questions we asked was ‘Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?’ The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, which we will. But we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
The cuts have been expected for some time. Already this year, some local NPR affiliates went as far as to advertise the potential federal funding cuts in their annual pledge drives.
Though the funding would not likely eliminate PBS and NPR, which get only a small percentage of their funds from the federal government, it would almost certainly affect local public radio and TV stations.
As The Washington Post reported in 2012, many public stations in rural areas rely on federal government allocations for up to 50% of their budgets.
Perry Metz, who oversees WFIU and WTIU in Indiana, told Business Insider that he was concerned by the proposed budget and argued that the percent of the federal government’s budget that is spent on public media is “tiny.”
“As a joint licensee, we broadcast to both blue and red counties and have long enjoyed bipartisan support. Eliminating this funding would remove the crucial seed money we leverage to raise additional funds from individuals and corporations,” Metz said in an email.
He added: “We are hopeful that Congress will continue the support it has shown public broadcasting for the last 60 years, through all kinds of administrations.”
Trump is not the first Republican to propose cuts to the CPB.
During a presidential debate in 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he would eliminate PBS’ funding if he was elected president.
“I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to the stop the subsidy to PBS,” Romney told the moderator, PBS’ Jim Lehrer. “I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”