A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch.
The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year — $100 million — and end funding altogether within two years. The loss could kill beloved children's shows like "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Arthur," and "Postcards from Buster." Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.
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Origins: Although a long-outdated piece decrying supposed upcoming cuts in funding for the NEA, NPR, PBS, and Sesame Street has been circulating for years (it addressed legislation already voted upon way back in 1995), recent congressional efforts have brought the issue to public attention again.
In June 2005 the House Appropriations Committee voted to sharply reduce federal financial support for public broadcasting. If this budgetary plan were approved it would eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), money which currently makes up 15% of the funding for public broadcasting. As the Washington Post reported:
A House subcommittee voted yesterday to sharply reduce the federal government's financial support for public broadcasting, including eliminating taxpayer funds that help underwrite such popular children's educational programs as "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster."
In addition, the subcommittee acted to eliminate within two years all federal money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — which passes federal funds to public broadcasters — starting with a 25 percent reduction in CPB's budget for next year, from $400 million to $300 million.
In all, the cuts would represent the most drastic cutback of public broadcasting since Congress created the nonprofit CPB in 1967. The CPB funds are particularly important for small TV and radio stations and account for about 15 percent of the public broadcasting industry's total revenue.
The House measure also cuts support for a variety of smaller projects, such as a $39.6 million public TV satellite distribution network and a $39.4 million program that helps public stations update their analog TV signals to digital format.
Although this legislation, if approved, would not (as claimed in older petitions) affect funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), it would obviously have a significant impact on public broadcasting outlets, which would have to turn to other sources to try to make up the lost revenue.
On 23 June 2005 the House of Representatives decided, by a 284-140 vote, to rescind the House Appropriations Committee's proposed $100 million cut in federal funds from the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Other areas of public broadcasting, however, may still face budget reductions if proposed funding cuts are not overturned:
But Elmo and Big Bird remain at risk. The House did not restore all of the public broadcasting funding cuts proposed for 2006. Although yesterday's amendment would bump CPB's general budget back to $400 million, the 2005 funding level, an additional $102.4 million that had been shorn from separate public broadcasting programs was not restored. That money underwrites the production of such PBS children's programs as "Sesame Street," "Arthur" and "Postcards From Buster." The money that would be cut also pays for satellite technology, basic equipment purchases and a federal mandate program to convert public TV stations from analog transmission to digital signal technology.
Last updated: 24 June 2005
Farhi, Paul. "Public Broadcasting Targeted by House."
The Washington Post. 10 June 2005 (p. A1).
Gold, Matea and Jube Shiver. "Public Broadcasting Funds May Be Halved."
Los Angeles Times. 17 June 2005 (p. A28).
Murray, Shailagh and Paul Farhi. "House Vote Spares Public Broadcasting Funds."
The Washington Post. 24 June 2005 (p. A6).
Taylor, Andrew. "House Rescinds Proposed Cut in Federal Support of Public Broadcasting."
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