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President’s Budget Request Would Slash CPB, Trim FCC, BBG

Public media funding again in crosshairs

How will the 2019 federal budget process affect radio-related organizations like CPB, NPR, the FCC and the BBG?

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be particularly hit hard by President Trump’s proposed budget. The recommended appropriation would rescind all but $15 million in FY2019 and FY2020 for the entity that supports non-commercial public media; its current budget is $445 million. The president previously recommended phasing out all funding for CPB; his new budget request is another step in that direction, observers say.

The president last year proposed to defund CPB but was rebuffed by public media supporters that include members of both parties. A House Labor Subcommittee last summer recommended that CPB receive level funding of about $445 million annually through 2020. But CPB appears to be braced for the battle for its existence and says it will continue to work with Congress and the administration to tout the value of public television and radio stations.

“Since there is no viable substitute for federal funding that would ensure this valued service continues, the elimination of federal funding to CPB would at first devastate, and then ultimately destroy public media’s ability to provide early childhood content, life-saving emergency alerts, and local journalism,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB in a statement.

Among other things CPB funds National Public Radio and helps support the operations nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations in this country.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is handing in a formal budget request of $333,118,000 for FY2019, spending that is offset by regulatory fees it collects. This would be a cut of about 6% from its actual 2018 budget. The commission under Chairman Ajit Pai is keeping staffing levels consistent year over year with a compliment of 1,448 full-time employees. The FCC is requesting about $113 million for spending on spectrum auctions.

The commission sets out four strategic goals in its FY2019 budget request beginning with efforts to encourage the private sector to build out next-generation networks, promote innovation that promotes a competitive marketplace, consumer protection and further reform for modernize FCC processes. It also hopes to clear a backlog of 8,000 pending radio and television applications and implement Blue Alerts as the newest code for the Emergency Alert System.

The president’s budget request for FY2019, sent to Congress on Monday, also includes $661.1 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The BBG oversees the Voice of America, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and BBG-funded grantees Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Middle Eastern Broadcasting Networks.

[Related: BBG CEO Outlines Efforts to Confront Russian Disinformation Abroad, Sept. 2017]

The latest BBG budget request represents a $24 million reduction from its FY2018 request. It includes program and operation reductions at the agency’s Offices of Technology, Services and Innovation; Cuba Broadcasting; and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, according to a press release.

The funding request “includes enhancing reporting on violent extremism, premiering additional fact-based alternatives to Russian propaganda, and increasing content and distribution options to China and Iran,” said John Lansing, CEO and director of BBG.