What Could Happen to Federal Funding for Public Media and Why It Matters

Feb 28, 2017

With a new congress in session and reports that that the Trump Administration is considering privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - the CPB is already a private corporation, but this essentially would mean ending its federal funding – we’ve been fielding many questions about what losing this funding would mean, especially for public broadcasters here in New Hampshire. To answer these questions, with the help of our public media colleagues, we’ve created the following primer.

Take action now: Don’t need to read the primer to know you want to speak up about the potential loss of federal funds? All you have to do is click this link and share your testimonial.

What is CPB's role in public broadcasting?

  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is distinct from both NPR and PBS. It’s not a broadcaster, but a private corporation created by Congress in 1967 with two primary functions: to serve as a firewall between partisan politics and public broadcasting, and to help fund programming, stations and technology.

Why does public broadcasting need federal funding?

  • Federal funding is essential to the mix that supports public broadcasting. The CPB provides seed money and basic operating support to local stations.  Each $1 of federal funding leverages $5 from local sources — an inarguably strong return on investment.
  • Federal funding provides support for public broadcasting’s mission to ensure universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and people of color.
  • In many rural areas, public broadcasting is the only source of free local, national and international news, public affairs and cultural programming.   
  • The CPB covers certain costs that benefit ALL public broadcasters – the satellite system, music rights, new program development and administrative support. Without this support, public radio and TV stations would not be able to create and broadcast the journalism and programming our audience relies on.

What we know today at New Hampshire Public Radio

  • Funding for the current fiscal year, FY2017, has already been distributed to the CPB, and first payments have been made to stations, including New Hampshire Public Radio.
  • The appropriation for the CPB is booked two years in advance, which is designed to provide a buffer between funding and changes in the political climate. Therefore, funding has been budgeted for FY2018 and FY2019, but has not yet been distributed. These appropriations could be rescinded through an Act of Congress.
  • Annual funding for the CPB amounts to about $1.35 per American per year. It has been level for several years.

How much CPB funding does New Hampshire Public Radio receive?

This year, a little less than 7% of New Hampshire Public Radio’s budgeted revenue will come from the CPB in the form of a Community Service Grant.  In addition, the station relies on the CPB for satellite access, music use rights, and other essential resources.   

How do we spend the CPB funding we receive?

About two-thirds of our CPB Community Services Grant goes toward the cost of national programs; the balance supports our newsroom and locally produced programs.  

What would happen if New Hampshire Public Radio lost CPB funding?

Losing CPB funds would have a noticeable effect on our ability to serve the community with national and local news, programs like The Exchange, Word of Mouth, The Folk Show and Outside In and podcasts like Civics 101, The Ten-Minute Writers Workshop and others.  If the agency was eliminated, we would not only lose the Community Service Grant funds – this year approximately $440,000 – but we would need to raise an additional $350,000 or so to cover the pro-rated share of the expenses that the CPB currently pays for – the satellite system, music rights and more. 

Where can I learn more? And how can I make myself heard?

A strong, diverse base of grassroots advocates is essential to ensuring the retention of federal funding. A great resource is the Protect My Public Media website. There, you can add your testimony and make sure your voice is heard when congressional hearings on CPB funding take place.