by Matthew L. Schafer
Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn [R-CO] introduced a bill to cut all government support for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, which funds public media like NPR and PBS. Lamborn called the CBP “low hanging fruit,” saying, “We have to make hard choices if we’re going to get our deficit under control… [or] we’re going to go the way of Greece.”
The CPB was established in 1967 with the goal of facilitating “the development of… and universal access to, non-commercial high-quality programming and telecommunications services.” Currently, the government spends approximately $420 million dollars on the CPB. That $1.43 per person covers about 13% of the CPB’s total funding.
Cutting funding to the CPB would reduce the 2010 $1.5 trillion dollar federal deficit by 0.028%, and the $13 trillion national debt by .0032%. “That is a grain of sand on the federal budget beach, and you are not going to solve deficit reduction problems by cutting public broadcasting funding,” said Wick Rowland, president of Colorado Public Television.
Still, Lamborn was adamant that public media be put on the chopping block. “Federal spending cuts need to start somewhere,” he said in a statement. “CPB may produce worthwhile content. That is not the issue.”
Twelve Republican congressmembers have joined Lambon’s bill. Among the supporters are Rep. Michelle Bachman [R.-MN], fresh off her assertion that BP “shouldn’t have to be fleeced and made chumps to have to pay for [the consequences of the oil spill],” and Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R.-TN].
If these politicians get their way, they’ll be gutting one of the nation’s most important institutions. Last year, PBS was nominated for 111 different Emmys. The public is more likely to trust public television’s public affairs programming than they are to trust Fox News, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, and MSNBC’s programming. Additionally, 80% of the public called public broadcasting tax dollars well spent and almost 50% of the public supported increasing funding to public broadcasting.
Lamborn and Co. have it all wrong –- we need to invest more in public media, not less (or at all). With the ever increasing amount of “junk news” we see in commercial media, it is increasingly important that we invest in media that’s impetus is the production and distribution of quality educational and investigative journalism – and not just the highest ratings or the biggest profits.
Note: A similar version of this article first appeared at NewPublicMedia.org on June 24, 2010.