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NPR Stations Say CPB Funding Cuts Would Hurt

Federal funding makes up important contribution

It’s far from final, but if Pres. Donald Trump gets his wish to drastically cut the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public radio stations in this country will need to address likely budget shortfalls.

The president’s proposed FY2019 budget cuts the current CPB budget from $445 million a year to $15 million. CPB, the entity that supports noncommercial public media in this country, helps fund the operations nearly 1,500 public television and radio stations.

The president, who last year proposed to defund CPB, has been rebuffed before by public media supporters including members of both political parties. Public radio stations are on high alert after CPB President Patricia Harrison reiterated this week that “there is no viable substitute for federal funding that would ensure this valued service continues.”

Radio World reached out this week to several public radio station managers who they say a drastic cut in federal financial support would impact their programming and staffing.

For example, federal funding amounts to about 14% of annual revenues for broadcaster Maine Public. Maine Public, which has seven FM signals across the state, raises about 70% of its revenue locally in that state, said Mark Vogelzang, president and CEO of Maine Public.

“A loss of 14% would make it very difficult to continue to provide the in-depth news and reporting on radio that is simply not done anywhere else in Maine. We’d have to severely reduce the number of NPR and BBC programs that our listeners count on, and that would be very hard to replace,” Vogelzang says.

Maine Public, which is currently building out a six-station FM network featuring classical music called Maine Public Classical, received about $1.6 million from CPB in 2017. Maine Public’s entire operating budget for 2017 was $12,268,144, according to their website.

Tim Eby, general manager of St. Louis Public Radio, says about 7% of its annual $8 million budget comes are federal dollars from CPB.

St. Louis Public Radio would survive the proposed cuts, Eby says, but “a greater impact would be on those stations in small and rural areas across the country. [They] could face the possibility of dropping out of the public radio system after the loss of CPB funding (since those stations are much more reliant on those funds).”

Eby continues in his email to Radio World, “This loss not only would not only affect the communities where the stations are located but also affect the economics of how we pay for national programs. That could put much of the public radio system into disarray.”

Maine Public’s Vogelzang says CPB, created as a private corporation created by Congress in 1967, is facing one of the most serious threats its ever seen, and “would have significant and lasting disruption to this nonprofit community organization, Maine Public and every NPR and PBS station” in the country.

“Now the work begins to change the outcome, and gain the support in Congress to fund CPB as the majority of Americans believe it should be. So while it’s a battle, we believe that we have a case that will win with the public’s support,” Vogelzang says.