President Trump’s recently proposed budget plan for 2018 is exactly what you would expect from a president trying to emulate recent conservative fiscal orthodoxy.
At its core, the budget includes a sizeable increase in defense spending at the expense of funding other executive departments and agencies. Among the 19 departments slated for elimination is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which receives about $440 million a year and is less than 1 percent of the annual federal budget.
Fortunately for the CPB the president and his team do not write the budget – that responsibility ultimately falls on the House of Representatives.
But the proposed cuts to CPB reflect a long-standing effort by elected Republicans to eliminate funding for public media in general.
Fiscal prudence is a good thing; however, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a worthwhile expenditure. The return on investment compared to what is spent is high.
In many places across the country public broadcasting represents a vital partner in the community. For residents in rural areas, the local Public Broadcasting Service or National Public Radio (NPR) station represents one of a limited number of options for broadcast news and information.
In fact, the CBP estimates there are 12 NPR stations in the United States that are the only broadcast entity available in their respective areas. These stations are among many others across the country to provide access to information about local government and current affairs where such programming may otherwise be limited.
Outside of the broadcast role, many rural public radio and TV stations have partnered with local schools to help provide educational resources and curriculum.
Employees of these stations work hand-in-hand with local school officials to offer students vital opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.
No argument in defense of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be complete without a section on children’s television and the crown jewel of PBS, “Sesame Street.”
At this point, the show is more or less self-funded. At its outset in 1969, the production company, then the Children’s Television Workshop, received a large grant from the federal government. This, along with other grants and donations, was the seed money to get the show off the ground.
Today the show is aired in over 150 countries and provides benefits to children worldwide in what could be considered one of America’s most well-known and beneficial exports.
In the United States, the impact of “Sesame Street” on viewers has been studied again and again. One such study conducted by the University of Kansas Center for Research on the Influences of Television on Children (CRITC) showed a significant difference in the pre-academic skills of children who viewed the show on a semi-regular basis.
In many cases, “Sesame Street” may be the only source of pre-kindergarten education that poor and rural children have access to.
“Sesame Street” is just one shown in a slate of CPB-funded television shows for children. There are many others that provide similar benefits to younger viewers and rely on government funding. This valuable programming would not be possible without CPB.
At the end of the day if funding were cut, the CPB would survive, but the ability for public broadcasting to achieve one of its primary missions – to provide citizens with quality television and radio content who may not otherwise have access to it – would be greatly diminished and the amount of money saved would be minuscule.
Perhaps that’s why cutting PBS isn’t popular among Americans of any political persuasion. According to a bipartisan poll conducted by American Viewpoint and Hart Research Associates, 73 percent of voters oppose any cuts to PBS, and Republican voters oppose cuts 2-1.
Finally, compare the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with the Voice of America, which broadcasts U.S. news specifically for foreign audiences. Both are valuable services, and both represent a tiny fraction of federal spending, but cutting VOA funding almost never comes up for debate.
Why is it that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is constantly under fire? Cutting funding for public media would adversely affect those who need it the most; it’s time to take it off the political chopping block for good.
Chad Kampbell is a Santa Clarita Valley resident and a member of a local Democratic club.