CPB lobbying to keep perk

Apr 2, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The Bush administration wants to kill a funding perk that helps public broadcasters get a jump on producing programming, but station officials will lobby lawmakers this week to retain it.

At issue is Congress’ advance funding of annual appropriations for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which farms out money to public television and radio stations.

Since 1975 Congress has been setting aside funding for CPB two years in advance. While CPB doesn’t actually receive the funds until two years after their appropriation, the arrangement lets stations and producers move ahead on production of projects without having to worry about near-term fluctuations in funding.

That could all change because President George W. Bush in late February proposed eliminating advanced funding altogether.

Nevertheless, public broadcasters scored a key victory on this front March 28 when the House Budget Committee passed a budget resolution that restores advanced funding for CPB and other entities.

“The CPB money is the seed money,” said Nancy Neubauer, spokeswoman for America’s Public Television Stations, the industry’s lobbying arm. She said corporate sponsors are more willing to underwrite independent producers if they know the government has already kicked in money for a project.

Early this week APTS is holding its annual lobbying event on Capitol Hill and will urge lawmakers in the Senate to follow the lead of the lower chamber and retain the funding scheme for CPB.

Meanwhile, station officials will continue to press lawmakers for digital TV transition funding, a top priority for the industry.

With a May 2003 deadline looming for their transition to be complete, public TV station officials have asked the Bush administration to provide $699 million in DTV funding over a five-year period, including $110 million for fiscal year 2002. For the past three years, the industry’s DTV funding requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Public broadcasters have also prioritized getting a must-carry requirement for their DTV signals, including all their planned multicast digital signals, which will feature educational programming, children’s shows and other fare.

So far, lawmakers appear to back mandatory cable carriage of each station’s primary DTV signal but not of any multicast digital signals.

Station representatives plan to meet with these lawmakers, among others: House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La.; Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet; Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking Democrat on Upton’s panel; Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee; and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., chairman of an appropriations panel that funds CPB.