Update on Federal Funding (February 2018)

Feb 17, 2018

2/17/2018 Update from President & General Manager Cary Boyce

Dear Listeners,

It’s the time of year when federal funding for public broadcasting (and everything else) comes under review.  The current Administration’s budget recommendations will likely recommend reducing or eliminating federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  An effort will be made by stations, public radio listeners, and public television viewers to maintain bi-partisan support to keep federal funding for public broadcasting in place. 

Success is not a given—your voice matters.  It’s important to know the facts, and I’ll answer some questions I get frequently:

  • What is CPB?  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967
  • How much does it cost?  It is funded by Congress each year for about $455MM.  This comes to about $1.35 per U.S. citizen per year.  Public radio is about $.25 of this. 
  • What does CPB actually do?  More than 70% of CPB’s federal funding goes directly to local public media stations.  Less than 5% of funding is spent on CPB operations.  The rest is spent on grants to support development of programming, critical equipment needs, and more.
  • Public Broadcasting is funded by taxes, right?  Only partly.  CPB funding provides about 10% of funding for stations across the country—often a much smaller percentage for large stations—and a much larger percentage for some of the smaller rural stations.  SPR is in this 9-to-11% ballpark. (We are trending less lately.)  Like other public broadcasters, we raise the rest of our operational dollars in private funding—most of which comes from listeners like you.  For every dollar of federal funding, we raise about $9 in private money.
  • What stations receive CPB funding?  CPB helps support the operations of nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide.  CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television, and related online services.
  • What do we get out of it?  CPB funding helps public broadcasters like SPR provide national and international news, local and regional news, educational programs, civil and emergency information, music, entertainment, and much more.  Public media reaches about 99% of the population of the US with such programming and emergency services.
  • Would SPR survive elimination of this funding?  Probably—but at a much reduced level of service.  We run a very tight financial ship, and much of our revenue goes to programming costs.  We would be forced to cut programming that our listeners find essential. 
  • Who else is affected?  Most public radio and television stations are affected, but medium to small stations are particularly at risk.  Rural stations, where public radio or television might be the only media service, would be in even greater danger of closing up shop.  
  • What can we do?   You can tell your representatives what you think.  If you believe fact based news and information, discussion of the issues, music and cultural programs, and critical weather and emergency services from public media are worth preserving, then go to  Protect My Public Media.  

This is only the beginning of the federal budget discussions, and I’ll do my best to keep listeners informed as things progress. I encourage you to visit Protect My Public Media and let our representatives know what you think. 

--Cary Boyce, President and General Manager, Spokane Public Radio

About Public Media, About CPB

How the Corporation for Public Broadcasting actually works for and with public broadcasting can be confusing.  One of the misconceptions I’ve heard recently includes, “Two percent of NPR’s budget comes from CPB, so NPR will not be hurt if CPB goes away … ”  CPB represents far more than a bit of funding for NPR and PBS.  It is essential funding for the local stations that serve their communities with great programming. Here are a few facts:

·        The bulk of local stations average between 9 and 15% of CPB funding of their budget, some small rural stations as much as 60%, some large stations as few as 4 or 5%.  SPR averages about 11%. Like other stations, we raise the rest (89% for SPR) of our revenue locally in private funds.

·        About ¾ of CPB funds go directly to stations. Most of the rest is for program development and support.  Local stations and the communities they serve benefit directly from CPB funds.

·        Public Broadcasting is mission-driven to inform, educate and enlighten our listeners—regardless of race, gender, national origin, or economic class.  Public media also provides culture, education, entertainment, and life-saving emergency weather and civil emergency information.  CPB was formed to support this mission for the public good.

·        In fact, CPB’s role in public media is to shield stations from political and market influences, and deliver support federal support in a way that does not affect a station’s ability to operate independently.  More than 1,041 local public radio stations and more than 365 local public television stations currently receive support from CPB. CPB also provides funding to producers of programming, but the CPB cannot distribute or broadcast programming on its own.

·        SPR is a local, independent, community-licensed public radio station.  We are an NPR affiliate, though our funding is separate.  We purchase NPR programs to better serve our communities, and we take programming from a number of sources that include NPR, Public Radio International, American Public Media, and we produce a great deal of content and local news ourselves.  CPB helps us provide this service—and a loss of this income would necessitate some very difficult decisions about what to keep and what to cut. 

As always, we are hugely dependent on (and grateful for) listener support.  You put the public in public radio. Thank you!

Public media in America is unique in the world.  It helps unite Americans around open discussion and verifiable information—facts, stories, history, science, art, education, communication, technology, culture—a wide array of topics that affect our nation, our world, and our communities.  Public media helps us understand ourselves and our world, sometimes during extraordinarily challenging and difficult times.  This is the nature of our service.  It’s my profound hope we can keep it that way--for today, for tomorrow, and for future generations.  You can find more information below. 

Let your voice be heard at Protect My Public Media

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