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Report Sees Few Funding Alternatives for PBS

Feb 20, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A new Government Accountability Office study is lending some weight to warnings about the Bush administration’s proposal to cut federal funding of public TV.

Unless Congress wants to allow stations to air program underwriting messages far closer to traditional ads-a step many public TV stations oppose-other revenue sources aren’t likely to make up for government cuts, the report says.

Secondary revenues from book, toy and DVD deals generate $7 million to $10 million annually, but they come from relatively few shows and at best merely help offset the Corporation of Public Broadcasting and PBS’ limited ability to fund upfront development costs for suppliers and stations.

“Given its statutorily defined mission and limited financial resources, public television is unlikely to greatly increase back-end revenues,” says the study, which was requested by U.S. Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., and Candice S. Miller, R-Mich.

The report says stations are pushing hard for more corporate contributions, but find it harder to get them.

“According to many licensees, corporate consolidation and an increased focus on advertising among businesses have made garnering underwriting support increasingly difficult.”

The report said 30 of the 54 public TV stations interviewed said cuts in federal funding “could lead to a reduction in staff, local programming or services” and 11 small stations said the cuts could lead to their shutting down.

The two congresswomen did not immediately return calls for comment.

President Bush has proposed a cut of $114 million-nearly 25 percent-in the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in his 2007 fiscal year budget.

MoveOn.org has kicked off a petition drive urging Congress to provide permanent funding to CPB and claims it has more than 600,000 signatures so far. Meanwhile, the American Family Association has started its own petition drive urging Congress to halt CPB funding. 

(Editor: Horowitz)