By Miriam Raftery
March 15, 2017 (Washington D.C.) - President Donald Trump’s budget contains a radical proposal to completely eliminate all funding for public broadcasting, including National Public Radio, or NPR, and PBS, the Public Broadcasting System which includes KPBS here in San Diego.
PBS president Paula Kerger says loss of all federal funds would be catastrophic, especially for small stations in rural areas. “A number of those stations would go off the air,” she states, the Washington Post reports.
That means a generation of children could grow up without seeing shows such as Sesame Street. Listeners could lose their primary source of unbiased national news as well as coverage of arts and music.
Those stations that survive will have to do so entirely off of private donations, which could mean more reliance on corporate donors. That’s a concern for maintaining impartial reporting standards, the hallmark of public broadcasting. Rural public stations are sometimes the only source of local community news as well, including breaking coverage of emergencies.
Presidents have proposed cutting or eliminating public broadcast funding in the past, dating back to Richard Nixon, who like Trump was disdainful of a free press. Such cuts have been proposed even though public broadcasting is an infinitesimal part of the federal budget – less than one one-hundredth of one percent.
Taxpayers are spending more on Secret Service protection of Trump Towers than the entire annual budget for Public Broadcasting. Building a border wall would cost about 100 times more than funding NPR and PBS.
In the past, proposals to eliminate money for public broadcasting have been thwarted by Congress, after a vocal public outcry to “Save Big Bird,” the popular Sesame Street character.
But this time, Trump has a powerful ally in House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has long sought to kill funding for public broadcasting. With Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, Democrats can’t block the efforts this time around, unless some Republicans join in the effort to save public broadcasting and restore funding in Trump’s budget.