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HUMAN EVENTS Asks Senators:Should Taxpayers Fund Public TV?

Ten years after a newly elected Republican Congress attempted to eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the issue was resurrected this month when a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to zero out CPB’s $400 million subsidy within two years. 

Even though some of the funding was restored by the full Appropriations panel—the CPB will not lose its funding completely, just about 25% next year—the move on June 9 by the Rep. Ralph Regula (R.-Ohio) rekindled an old debate.  

Federal funding of CPB accounts for about 15% of the Public Broadcasting System’s budget and 1% of National Public Radio’s budget.  Advocates of this taxpayer funding—including local public radio and TV stations, left-wing activists at MoveOn.org and former liberal PBS pundit Bill Moyers—are mounting a vigorous offensive to maintain it. 

Moderate Senate Republicans are seen as CPB’s most-likely allies.  With the Senate expected to tackle the issue in July, Human Events Managing Editor Robert Bluey asked Republicans if they would vote to eliminate the $400 million taxpayer subsidy.

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A House Appropriations subcommittee voted this month to zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  As a longtime supporter of public broadcasting, do you plan to do anything in the Senate to restore these cuts?

Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska):  I think we need to set down some guidelines so this controversy doesn’t arise again.  I do believe there’s been a lack of adherence to the concept of equal treatment and impartiality of the public system. 

But what about…

Stevens: I don’t take—I’ve answered your question and I’m not going to answer any more.

———-

A House Appropriations subcommittee zeroed out the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting earlier this month.  Some of those cuts were later restored, but it was still cut by about 25%.  Would you support ending government funding for the CPB? 

Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.): There are some things they do very well and there are some things they do poorly.  Given all the media today, I don’t think the federal government ought to be spending any money on a government-run media organization. 

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A House Appropriations subcommittee recently voted to zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The full House Appropriations Committee later restored some of those cuts, but still slashed about 25% from next year’s budget.  Would you vote to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? 

Sen. Robert Bennett (R.-Utah): No. 

Do you support public broadcasting?

Bennett: I do.

Why should the government provide funding?

Bennett:  I think they fill a niche.  I don’t like the political twist on many of their programs, but, yeah, I support it. 

———-

The House has moved to cut funding for public broadcasting, and an Appropriations subcommittee recently voted to zero out funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Would you vote to eliminate government funding?

Sen. Norm Coleman (R.-Minn.):  No.  I support public broadcasting.  As an urban mayor, I worked with public broadcasting in my city, and they’ve served an important purpose.  I know the world’s changing in terms of what’s out there, but I still think there’s a place for them.  I’m not ready to eliminate funding for public broadcasting. 

What about cutting funding next year by $100 million?

Coleman:  I’d have to take a look.  I haven’t looked at the full budget.  I just think there’s a place and there’s a purpose there.  I understand it’s a changing world, but I think it’s part of the important mix of what’s educated kids.  But I’d certainly like to see if there would be cost savings. 

———-

Public broadcasting has been in the news with a House Appropriation subcommittee voting to zero out funding within the next few years.  Would you vote to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah):  No, I wouldn’t.  But I am concerned about the direction it’s been going.  I think [CPB Chairman] Ken Tomlinson is the best thing that’s happened to it.  I would like to see Ken Tomlinson given a little bit of leeway and more support.  If there was truly balanced reporting, it would do a lot of good.  But let’s face it, it’s very heavily balanced to the left.  I think there’s a need for public broadcasting, but it ought to be fair.  Ken’s trying to make it fair. 

———-

A House Appropriations subcommittee voted to cut funding over the next several years for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The full Appropriations committee trimmed back those cuts to 25% next year.  Would you vote to eliminate support for public broadcasting?

Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.):  I never have understood with all the different media that are available—and that are expanding daily—why we use taxpayer dollars to fund a particular message that not everyone is going to agree with.  It doesn’t seem fair to take money from someone’s pocket who doesn’t agree with a particular media source.  I have concerns about that.

Would it be politically palatable to cut funding at this time?

Cornyn:  I hope that we would make decisions based on principles and not just what’s popular.

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A House Appropriations subcommittee voted to eliminate funding within two years for public broadcasting.  The full Appropriations Committee restored some of those cuts.  Would you vote to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

Sen. Trent Lott (R.-Miss.):  If Democrats don’t quit trying to maintain that as a bastion of liberalism and socialism, I’d be for cutting the funding.  I think Ken Tomlinson is trying to get a more balanced program at PBS and their other entities—public TV and radio.  So, for the first time in years, I feel they’re trying to strive for balance.  The timing of the cuts, in a way, is inopportune.  PBS has just been a disaster.  Bill Moyers and that crowd have been so unbalanced, so partisan and so liberal for so long.  And now, Ken Tomlinson is trying to straighten the mess out.  But it depends.  I really question how much of a federal role there is anyway. 

———-

Administration Conflicted

When asked by Human Events’ John Gizzi, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said he believed the President’ budget requested level funding for CPB.  In fact, it called for cutting CPB from $466 billion to $390 billion.  (The House appropriators would cut it further to $300 billion.) Bush’s new president of CPB, Patricia Harrison, however, says she will fight against Bush’s proposed cut.

Gizzi:  Ralph Regula, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and himself a longtime supporter of tax dollars for CPB, said funding for this agency had to be terminated because of deficit concerns this year.  On June 9, his subcommittee voted to cut out all funding for CPB, then those cuts were partly restored by the full committee.  Does the President support ending government funding for public broadcasting? 

McClellan:  What we have done in our budget, I believe, and I’ll go—and I’ll have to go back and double check, but I believe we’ve provided level funding in the current budget.  We do have concerns about the deficit, and we need to keep our budget on track to—keep our economy growing and keep the budget on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.  And that’s why we outlined a very responsible budget that held the line on spending elsewhere.

But what we did for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I believe, was level fund it, and I’ll double check that to make sure. 

So you’re saying you disagree with Chairman Regula, that there should be some sort of funding for public broadcasting?

McClellan:  You can go and look at our budget, because it spells out—spells it out in the budget.

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Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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