PBS Chief Fires Back at Romney Plan to Eliminate Funding, Says Public Broadcasting Represents ‘One One-Hundredth of One Percent’ of U.S. Budget

Aug 17, 2012  •  Post A Comment

PBS Chief Executive Paula Kerger fired back at Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s plan to cut funding for the broadcaster, calling it "extremely disappointing" and potentially "devastating" to the American public, The Washington Post reports.

As previously reported, Romney told Fortune magazine in an interview earlier this month, "So first there are programs I would eliminate … Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS, I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf."

Kerger told The Post that Romney’s targeting of PBS is disappointing given the “value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers.”

She pointed to a 2011 national survey by Hart Research and American Viewpoint, bipartisan research firms, that found 69% of voters oppose proposals to eliminate government spending on public broadcasting.

"We understand that these are challenging times,” Kerger said. “However, public broadcasting has already sustained a 13 percent cut in its federal funds over the past two years. More severe cuts would be crippling.”

"Federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget," Kerger added. “Elimination of funding would have almost no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.”


  1. We can continue to deficit spend Billions in Afghanistan, but not afford PBS?
    Our priorities are as screwed up as they can be.
    Peter Bright

  2. Unfortunately Peter, the right wing has always loathed news organizations that have the audacity to tell both sides of a story fairly or cover a story they prefer others did not know about, like voter surpression via discriminatory laws.
    And, if you don’t like laws you can’t overturn, then gut funding for enforcing them. Can you say SEC and banking laws?

  3. Likewise, cuts to the IRS.
    They can’t catch tax cheats if there’s no one to audit them, right? And each additional IRS auditor brings in about 10x their salary in additional taxes.
    So of COURSE we need to cut the budget of the IRS…

  4. I am sorry but the American Public would not be devastated if PBS had to run advertising like most other networks. PBS has some excellent programming, but they should have no trouble selling advertising on that excellent programming. The government cut should be made over a 3-5 year period in order to assure that PBS is given enough time to develop the sales resources necessary.

  5. You make a good point, but I think the real “devastation” comes not from a lack of funding, but from having to become beholden to the advertisers and whatever they may or may not want to see.

  6. Sorry, Digital Guy, but your confusing two different business models. Unlike underwriters, who seek to enhance their reputation by association with a quality show, advertisers are paying to reach a large audience.
    Originally, A&E, Bravo Discovery and the History Channel offered theatre, classical concerts and credible documentaries. Now they show “Storage Wars,” “Swamp People,” “Pawn Stars” and “Real Housewives.”
    PBS Shows are much more expensive to research, produce, and often support with educational materials. Advertising simply won’t support “Frontline,” “American Experience,” “NOVA” or “Live from Lincoln Center,” let alone preschool fare like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street” which should NOT carry commercials.

  7. I agree with Michael. With Advertising comes the need to worry about ratings. If you think commercial TV can produce quality TV, just look at A&E or the History Channel.

  8. Republican’s love to point out that PBS has become irrelevant due to cable channels offering the same sort of programming. However, no cable channel offers the same great quality programming that PBS has. Plus, PBS is hated by the right-wing because it offers actual news, not the politically biased stuff that “news” has become nowadays.

  9. Sorry, but I have been a sponsor of most of those shows and have a pretty good understanding of their budgets. They don’t come close to prime time network programming where major stars are paid 6-7 figures per episode. The PBS needs to grow up and enter the real world. As does much of the Federal Government. The money faucet has to be slowed down across the board.

  10. Going to having commercials on PBS is an option…No wait I believe that the majority of their stations are legally not allowed to because of FCC regulations. It is a double edge sword. I do believe that things need to change with PBS and they need to wake up as there is a reason that the other networks don’t run some of the programming they are airing.

  11. PBS has good quality programming, but also completes a thought or a show if you will, without being interrupted every 6-7 mins for 3-4 mins worth of advertising. Also their shows have more actual content. Average PBS show either 26:46 – 28:00 minutes of content for a 30 min show or 56:46 – 58:00 for a 60 min show vs Commercial television that has 21:00 – 22:00 mins of content for a 30 min show or 41:00 – 44:00 of content for a 60 min show. Plus shows that make you think,educate, and entertain including kids shows that don’t have your kids asking you to buy some toy, or a gotta have it item. The FCC would have to change the rules for the Public TV operation because right now there are many restrictions placed there that commercial stations do not have, as you can see by their content and use of the air waves.
    Family Values and Educating the Public that’s PBS.

  12. Cutting PBS–as well as funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, etc.–has never been about saving money, but about appealing to the conservative basis. It’s a “culture battle cry” that has historically rallied conservatives.

  13. The conservative issue is not culture, but propriety. While it MIGHT have been a good idea to fund an alternative source of TV and radio programming in the early and developing days of television and FM radio, it makes little economic sense today, as consumers are flooded with diverse sources of programming that are produced without subsidy.
    This is ultimately about economics. As noted, when an out-of-control government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, there is going to be a reckoning sooner or later. Public broadcasting is a “nice to have,” not a necessity. At the rate we’re going, we are going to have a tough time funding what most agree are necessities, so the “nice to haves” are going to have to be dealt with fairly ruthlessly.
    While it’s true that conservatives have some issues with the fairness of PBS and NPR, this is not about fairness. We have the same issues with NBC, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, The Washington Post, yet no one is calling for those to be interfered with, because none of those are receiving public money for their operations. Public broadcasting is a budget issue, and it is very difficult to see why or how you would make public broadcasting any sort of priority in the current fiscal situation.
    If public broadcasting is as important and as valued as so many people here attest, then it will survive with new and different sources of funding. If it can’t, then those assessments probably aren’t legit.
    Personally, I see the ending of public broadcasting subsidies to be an introductory acid test of the country’s ability to deal with the fiscal crisis we face. If we can’t get past this issue, which should be a no-brainer from any economic perspective, then we are surely going to fail at addressing the bigger issues down the road. And that will create much greater and meaningful risk than a bit of inconvenience for PBS and NPR fans.

  14. Eggman, David S, Tim, Arthur, JJ, Peter, you have just been welcomed to the “Real World” by VideoSavant. Take note and pull your collective heads out of the sand.

  15. Video Savant & Bill,
    While the point is well taken, that has been an argument that was soundly defeated over the decades. Although there are billions of dollars of “nice-to-haves” in the budget there are many things that are a must. Having just 1 channel that is not supported in the usual fashion is not a lot to ask for. There is no “diversity” when it is 5 public companies, all bottom line shareholder driven. That is the sand that many heads are buried in.
    Keep in mind that the commercialization or “privatizing” many things on the budget is what got us into fiscal difficulty. Think non-profit hospitals, all disappearing while medical costs soar. Think schools, cutting funding, state and national, doesn’t seem to work very well. It shifts the cost of education to the end consumer who then is strapped for decades in deep debt. One more BIG thing is the privitization of the military. We now spend 10 times the salary cost to fund 1 “private security guard” (throughout history they have been called mercenaries or soldiers of fortune) and they have no one to account for. World history tells us that when a country fights it’s wars with mercenaries it is bankrupting itself morally and finacially and WILL collapse. Put seargent stripes on those guys and tell them to “love it or leave it”
    All great civilizations are remembered from their art. I don’t want mine to be remembered for Jersey Shore.

  16. Tim,
    I’m doubtful that my argument has been defeated over the decades, and even if that were true, the fiscal situation is very different now than it was over any decade you would care to point to.
    Our budget cumulative deficit is $17 trillion, which is equal or slightly larger than the size of the entire US economy. Taking unfunded liabilities into account (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and our deficit is well over $200 trillion.
    I think our time would be better spent figuring out how to continue to build a living and thriving civilization rather than worrying about how future civilizations will weigh in on our artistic contributions. Your grandkids won’t have the luxury of spending their time worrying about such relativist, navel-gazing nonsense.

  17. Easy. The % I pay for SSI & Medicare should be the same percentage regardless of income and raise the retirement age to 67 and stop handing out “dumb” checks. Also, increase fraud enforcement. We also do not need the military we have now. THAT is where the expense should be cut. Bin Laden himself predicted that that is how we would defeat ourselves. So far he is 100% correct.

  18. I think what many are missing here is that federal funding for PBS, The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities is such a small part of the budget, that these cuts would be negligible in terms of reducing the deficit. With the money the federal government pours into the military, Homeland Security, etc, cutting funding for arts and education (which is also Romney’s plan) is absolutely ridiculous. Ironically enough, he wants to put money into new technology for the military. Who will produce that new technology? Not our under-educated children….China, perhaps?

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