The Protect My Public Media campaign may be the only thing between public television and radio and disaster. That may seem dramatic, but with Big Bird off the news cycle, PBS doesn't have a whole lot speaking up for it right now. Instead of spending our time discussing where it is most appropriate to cut spending, those of us who believe in public resources and local investment are stuck fighting short-sighted bureaucrats and partisans who have lost sight of the value of public media. With your help, we can be louder.
Protect My Public Media describes its mission as fighting to preserve federal funding for public media as a primary source of news, educational, music, and cultural programming working collaboratively with educators, parents, and schools across the country. The campaign is battling against those who think Big Bird needs to be defunded or missed that Parenting.com just announced its top 6 picks for toddlers, half of which are on PBS Kids. A strong public media serves as a conduit to its local community for a variety of public goods — including information during emergencies, coverage of local government actions, and programming for children of all socioeconomic levels.
A report released last year conducted by Booz & Company revealed that no combination of television and radio advertising, paid digital subscriptions, digital game publishing, and retransmission fees from cable and satellite operators could replace the revenue lost if federal funding is eliminated. The report found that a high number of mainly rural public stations, 54 public television and 74 public radio stations, would have to close without the support of federal tax dollars. This is problematic because local public media provides unparalleled local content, responding to localized needs and leveraging community support. The programming local public media is able to afford with the support of federal tax dollars increases the likelihood of receiving local support, closing the gap between the federal outlay (15% of their budgets) and operational expenses.
House Republicans have included language to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in draft appropriations bills leading up to the next budget battle. The CPB was founded by Congress in 1968 as a private, non-profit corporation that now serves as the single largest source of funding for 1,400 locally owned radio and TV stations. Costing taxpayers a whopping $1.35 per American per year, public media reaches more than 118 million Americans monthly on PBS and 37 million on public radio.
Your portion of federal funding for programs that reach so many, that sustain locally licensed, governed and staffed stations, that bring educational content to 98% of our population, is less than a cup of coffee. For a decade, PBS has been the #1 most trusted institution and has been considered an excellent use of tax dollars in a poll conducted by Roper Public Affairs — behind only military/defense spending. That alone should indicate the high priority to the American people that their local public media stations represent — even the staunchest budget hawks seem to support increased military spending — and yet we find it on the chopping block.
This debate is juvenile and it has to stop. Public resources for education, communication, and civic advancement are critical to the success of this nation, and those points are lost on a crowd blindly whetted to cutting without measuring the value to our society. As a fiscal conservative, I was not intending to become a champion of public resources such as libraries and PBS, and yet here I stand yelling, "enough!" We have to look at the long game about what kind of nation we want to have.
When Elmo testified before Congress, he was fighting for more musical instruments and programming in public schools. Now, he and his friends on PBS have a greater fight — to defend the value of publicly supported local radio and TV stations. Just in case you need a list of other reasons to support public media, check out the campaign's latest blog post on the Five Things You Didn't Know About Public Television.
I stand with Protect My Public Media and declare it is worth our tax investment to support this programming and the access to millions of Americans it ensures.