Technical Funds Threatened Too, NPR Says

H.R. 1076 affects PRSS, also precludes NPR from competing for technology federal grants
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H.R. 1076 affects PRSS, also precludes NPR from competing for technology federal grants

More than just federal funding for programming is at stake if H.R. 1076, passed by the House Thursday, should become law, says NPR.

The bill bans the use of federal funds for public radio stations to buy programming from any public radio program distributor or producer, such as NPR, American Public Media or Public Radio International or independent program producers, according to those programming sources.

Interim CEO Joyce Slocum said in a statement that not only would the bill’s passage “ultimately choke local stations’ ability to serve their audiences,” there’s a technical impact as well.

The ban on public stations’ use of federal funding would include not only programming and membership functions, but also the NPR public radio satellite system, the distribution hub for public radio programming to audiences. PRSS would be deprived of funds for future capital improvement projects, essential to maintain this fundamental broadcast infrastructure, according to Slocum.

The legislation precludes NPR from competing for federal grants that provide for investments in technology and disability access, projects underway at NPR Labs. These grants, administered by NPR on behalf of public radio, have propelled public radio’s progress in digital media and in systems for emergency communications during disasters and for the issuance of AMBER alerts, according to NPR.

Radio World has reported on NPR Labs’ work on multicasting for HD Radio, its testing of asymmetrical sidebands for Nautel with WAMU(FM), Washington and its development of personalized radio and captioning for the blind and hearing-impaired.

Also at stake in Washington’s funding battles is federal funding for stations from CPB or NITIA’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program fund, both used by stations to purchase digital equipment.

According to RW sister publication Broadcasting & Cable, President Obama has signed another continuing resolution to keep the government funded through April 8, but it cuts the $20 million for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP).

In his budget proposal, the administration made recommended cuts to CPB. Both it and PTFP won’t know their budgets for possible new equipment grants until the federal budget is finalized later this year.