Update on Federal Funding (March 2017)

Mar 27, 2017

3/28/2017 Update from President & General Manager Cary Boyce

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 is more than NPR and PBS it is about 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 most 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 cannot distribute or broadcast it.

·        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!

Cary Boyce 

3/21/2017 Update from President & General Manager Cary Boyce

Dear Listeners: 

I’ve received many questions lately about federal funding for public broadcasting.  It’s true a preliminary White House budget calls for the elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) along with several other agencies such as NEA, NEH, Meals on Wheels, and so on.  Such federal budget decisions are ultimately the responsibility of Congress, and many debates will yet take place before anything is settled.  While it’s still early, as the general manager of Spokane Public Radio I am naturally concerned.  There is reason to be.

The cost in federal funds for public media nationally comes to $1.35 per person per year.  Public radio’s percentage is 30 cents of this.  At Spokane Public Radio, CPB funding averages 11 percent of our annual operating budget. Nationally, that’s about average, and we are working steadily to reduce this reliance.  We raise the rest of our necessary operating funds locally in membership and underwriting dollars, grants, and a smattering of other revenue streams. 

Most of our expenses go to purchase programming from excellent content providers including NPR—one of the best and most trusted sources of news in the world.  National and international coverage is expensive and offers a low financial return on investment, which is why many commercial media companies avoid such coverage altogether or do a cursory job of it.  Public media is mission driven to bring you information about what’s going on in the world.  SPR brings NPR’s service —along with local and regional news, education, music, entertainment, special events, as well as critical weather, civil emergencies, and breaking news—to 1.1 million people in 750 communities across 20,000 square miles of the Inland Northwest.

Someone recently asked, (to summarize a bit) “Should a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mother in Detroit pay for these programs?”  If we think this through, I think his question is really, “Do people in trying economic circumstances deserve affordable ($1.35/year each) access to information, news, educational programs, and entertainment?”  Of course there is always cable, and choice is preferable to no choice.  You be the judge, but make no mistake—the poorest regions and most vulnerable citizens are the most likely to lose this public media service, sometimes the only service, if CPB funding disappears.

Federal funding is a worthwhile debate, but let’s be clear on what the CPB debate is really about:  At .01 percent of the federal budget, elimination of CPB would do next to nothing to balance it.  Some may object to public broadcasting because it occasionally reports uncomfortable news and views that we (you, me, sometimes both) find disagreeable.  However, public broadcasting was established with bi-partisan support with exactly this in mind:  Public media’s mandate is to report the news, to hold our officials accountable, and to offer fair and balanced perspectives on complex issues.  If you don’t like the view you’ve just heard, please stay tuned. Public media can only broadcast one side of things at a time, and you are likely to hear another side of an issue shortly.  It’s not perfect at this—but it strives to be.

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.  

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

The White House proposal for the federal budget

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

Comments from Corporation for Public Broadcasting CEO Patricia Harrison:

Let your voice be heard at Protect My Public Media