Federal Funding For Public Media Under Threat

Mar 16, 2017

The Administration's FY 2018 budget blueprint, released March 16, proposes to end future funding for public broadcasting. Take action now by signing the petition at protectmypublicmedia.org to urge Congress to protect federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Local public radio and television stations, including VPR, rely on this essential federal seed money to serve virtually every community in our country. This seed money costs roughly $1.35 per American per year.

Please sign the petition and share it with your friends and networks to share your support for VPR and public media.

What We Know Now

  • The Trump Administration’s FY 2018 budget blueprint released March 16 proposes to end future funding for public broadcasting.  
  • This includes “zeroing out” the appropriation that was previously approved for FY 2018 and FY 2019 (appropriation for the CPB is booked two years in advance, which is designed to provide a buffer between funding and changes in the political climate).
  • Funding for the current fiscal year, FY2017, has been distributed to the CPB, and first payments have been made to stations, including VPR.
  • Annual funding for the CPB has been level at $445 million for several years. That amounts to about $1.35 per American taxpayer per year.
  • The federal government is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. 
  • Vermont’s Congressional delegation — Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch — have all voiced support for continuing to fund the CPB.

This step is but the first in a long journey to decide funding levels for the federal government. Ultimately, the Congress will make final decisions on continuing the annual federal investment in the public broadcasting system. We are keeping a close eye on these developments and will update you as we learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions About The CPB

What is CPB's role in public broadcasting?
The CPB is distinct from both NPR and PBS. It is not a broadcaster, but a private corporation created by Congress in 1967 with two primary functions: to serve as a firewall between partisan politics and public broadcasting, and to help fund programming, stations and technology.

How much CPB funding does VPR receive?
This year, about 10 percent of VPR’s budgeted revenue will come from the CPB in the form of a Community Service Grant, about $829,000. In FY16, VPR received $754,000. In previous years VPR has received about $600,000 annually as a match from what we raise annually for membership and underwriting support. Because we are currently conducting a multi-year $10 million capital campaign, those funds are also being matched, giving VPR a few years of elevated CPB funding.

What would happen if VPR lost CPB funding?
At VPR, we feel it's important to receive funding from many diverse sources, including individual listeners, local businesses, foundations and the CPB. Losing CPB funds would have a noticeable effect on our ability to serve the community with local news and music programming.

If the agency was eliminated, we would not only lose the Community Service Grant funds, but we would need to raise additional funds to cover our share of other expenses the CPB currently pays for – the satellite system, music rights and more. 

Why does public broadcasting need federal funding?
Federal funding is essential to the funding mix that supports public broadcasting. CPB funding provides critical seed money and basic operating support to local stations, which then leverage each $1 of federal funding to raise over $6 from local sources — a tremendous return on the taxpayer investment.

Federal funding provides essential support for public broadcasting’s mission to ensure universal access to high-quality, non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and people of color.

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 often rely 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.

In addition, the CPB helps negotiate music rights for all public stations and provides administrative support, allowing stations to aggregate together for cost-effective sharing of information, research and services.

Where can I learn more? And how can I make myself heard?
A strong, diverse base of grassroots advocates is essential to ensuring the retention of federal funding. A great resource is the Protect My Public Media website. There, you can sign and share a petition urging Congress to protect funding for public broadcasting.