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Facts about Federal Funding for Public Media

On Thursday, March 16, 2017, the White House released its Fiscal Year 2018 “skinny budget,” which proposed eliminating all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  The President’s budget is a condensed blueprint of the administration’s funding priorities for the next fiscal year. The budget’s submission to Congress marks the beginning of the budget and appropriations processes and serves as a recommendation of what the President ideally wants Congress to fund.

Next, Congress will review the President’s budget proposal and work to develop its own. Congress’s budget will establish how much the government can spend and include instructions on how the budget should be used, potentially including guidelines related to public media funding.

Key Facts:

·         CPB’s total annual appropriation is $445 million, with 95% of this appropriation going to public broadcasting stations and the public broadcasting system. CPB’s share of the $4 trillion federal budget is around .01 percent.

·         Public broadcasting is one of the most effective public/private partnerships in America. Annual federal funding amounts to only $1.35 per American per year and this amount is leveraged by local stations to raise an average of six times that amount from other sources.

·         In many communities across America, public radio and television stations are among the last locally owned media outlets. These stations are independently licensed, owned, operated and staffed and are responsible for selecting, presenting and scheduling the content they air.

·         Millions of Americans depend on their local public radio stations for the fact-based, unbiased, public service journalism they need to stay informed about the news in their own communities and the world. The free flow of ideas and debate that springs from this information helps us participate in the political process as informed citizens.

·         Public radio stations like Michigan Radio are a trusted, local source for journalism. Recently, Michigan Radio reporters helped bring the Flint water crisis to national attention, examined how post-9/11 military veterans are faring in Michigan, told the stories of Michigan firefighters who are battling work-related cancer without the health care coverage they were promised, and brought to light the handling of sexual assault cases on a major college campus. These are just a few of the important local stories we’ve covered.  

·         At a time when newspapers and many other local journalism outlets are closing or cutting back on their reporting, public radio stations like Michigan Radio continue to bring you fact-based journalism and help hold elected officials accountable.        

·         Michigan Radio talks with and treats our audience as citizens rather than consumers. In addition to our on-air programming, we host conversations and community engagement events that address important issues facing communities across Michigan.    

·         Michigan Radio receives no funds from the state of Michigan or any direct funding from the University of Michigan.                                 

Why does public broadcasting need federal funding?

Federal funding is essential to the funding mix that supports public broadcasting. This funding provides seed money and basic operating support to over 1400 locally owned and operated public television and public radio stations nationwide.

This funding provides support for public broadcasting’s mission to ensure universal access to high-quality, non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens and enriches the public.

In many rural areas, public broadcasting is the only source of free local, national and international news, public affairs and cultural programming – and with such small populations they usually rely much more heavily on federal funding. Without it, these stations would likely be unable to continue to provide local communities with news, information, cultural and educational programming that they currently provide, and could even go off the air altogether.

What is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and how much funding does Michigan Radio get?

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a private corporation created by Congress in 1967 to distribute federal funds to public television and radio stations and help fund public broadcasting programming and technology. It was also created to serve as a firewall between partisan politics and public broadcasting. CPB is distinct from both NPR and PBS.

This past year, about 6% ($449,000) of Michigan Radio’s funding came from the federal government via CPB. However, the station also relies on CPB to pay for satellite access, music use rights, new program development and other essential shared resources. 

CPB also helps fund special program initiatives, like the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, of which Michigan Radio is a participating member. This special funding allows us to do more in-depth reporting and community engagement activities to share the stories of Michigan’s largest city with a statewide audience.

What would happen if Michigan Radio lost CPB funding?

We would immediately need to replace the $449,000 in direct funding from our individual donors and corporate funders. We would also be forced to look at raising an additional estimated $400,000 to cover the pro-rated share of expenses that CPB currently pays – the satellite system, music rights, and more. In addition, if smaller stations fold or are no longer able to pay their share for NPR programs, our cost for programs like Morning Edition, Fresh Air and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me could also increase sharply.

It might be true that Michigan Radio could continue operating without CPB support, but the result would likely be a greatly diminished local program service, with staff reductions, fewer original programs and cutbacks in local reporting, election coverage, in-depth interviews and other cuts.    

Where can I learn more or make myself heard on this issue?

You can visit the Protect My Public Media website to sign a petition, add your testimony and make your voice heard when it comes to CPB funding.

Steve is Michigan Public's Marketing Director. His job involves coordinating the station’s marketing, communication and public relations efforts, special events, car donation program and community & media partnerships.