Bud­get clouds Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Act’s 50th

Imperial Valley Press - - NEWS -

LOS AN­GE­LES (AP) — The fed­eral act that cre­ated pub­lic broad­cast­ing is mark­ing its 50th year, but if Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has his way it could be a hol­low cel­e­bra­tion.

Trump’s 2018 bud­get pro­posal makes him the sec­ond pres­i­dent to try to kill fund­ing for the Cor­po­ra­tion for Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing (CPB) and the first to tar­get the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts and the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties as well.

The White House plan re­leased Thurs­day, which em­pha­sizes mil­i­tary and other se­cu­rity-re­lated spend­ing and slashes many do­mes­tic pro­grams, is the first step in a lengthy bud­get process that ul­ti­mately re­quires Con­gres­sional ap­proval.

The three agen­cies com­bined re­ceive about $740 mil­lion an­nu­ally in tax dol­lars. It’s a sliver of the cur­rent $4 tril­lion fed­eral bud­get, but it car­ries out­sized im­por­tance in po­lit­i­cal sym­bol­ism and, both sup­port­ers and de­trac­tors say, eco­nomic im­pact.

Re­ac­tion was swift from the agen­cies and the art and en­ter­tain­ment world. Alarm was the com­mon thread.

“We’re cel­e­brat­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of the Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Act, what I think has been the most suc­cess­ful pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship — how ironic it would be if we were de­funded this year,” said Paula Kerger, chief ex­ec­u­tive for PBS. The non­profit group’s yearly CPB grant pays for pro­grams that are dis­trib­uted to mem­ber sta­tions.

The pro­posal is “counter to the mes­sage that Amer­i­can art can re­flect so­ci­ety, it can ad­vance so­ci­ety, it can in­spire so­ci­ety,” said Gina Prince-Bythe­wood, direc­tor of movies in­clud­ing “Be­yond the Lights” and co-cre­ator of Fox TV’s new drama, “Shots Fired.”

“It’s hor­ri­fy­ing to think that can go away, and I have to stay op­ti­mistic and be­lieve that (the cuts) won’t go through,” she said.

Kate Shin­dle, pres­i­dent of the 51,000-strong Ac­tors’ Eq­uity As­so­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents stage ac­tors and stage man­agers, said the NEA’s $148 mil­lion reaps a “re­turn on in­vest­ment” for both the cul­ture and the econ­omy.

“The arts are not a frill, a lux­ury, or some kind of extended van­ity project,” she said. “The arts are a part of who we are as a na­tion, and the arts put our na­tion to work. Mil­lions of peo­ple have jobs based on spinoff ef­fects in ho­tels, restau­rants, re­tail stores, and other busi­ness that ben­e­fit from spend­ing on the arts.”

Wil­liam D. Adams, chair­man of the NEH, said the agency was “sad­dened” by Trump’s move and noted the agency’s five-decade fund­ing of books, film, mu­seum ex­hibits and other projects that have “in­spired and sup­ported what is best for Amer­ica.”

Trump’s bud­get plan makes no spe­cific ar­gu­ment for elim­i­nat­ing the agen­cies’ fund­ing, al­though the pro­posal fol­lows a para­graph de­scrib­ing the in­tent to “re­de­fine the proper role” of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

But the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion has been a vo­cal ad­vo­cate of such cuts for decades and is again in its “A Blue­print for Bal­ance: A Fed­eral Bud­get for 2017.” Paul Win­free, who was lead edi­tor on the doc­u­ment, has since joined the White House as direc­tor of bud­get pol­icy.

“We fun­da­men­tally be­lieve the arts are able to flour­ish in­de­pen­dently of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Rom­ina Boc­cia, the foun­da­tion’s deputy direc­tor.

Among the prob­lems she says fed­eral fund­ing can cre­ate: A dis­tor­tion of the art mar­ket as pri­vate fund­ing mi­grates to projects seen as hav­ing the “fed­eral stamp of ap­proval,” and “cul­tural crony­ism.”

Such crony­ism, she al­leges, can be seen in the NEA’s dis­tri­bu­tion of grants to re­gional arts projects in ev­ery state.

“Not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause it cre­ates the best art but be­cause they (the NEA) are try­ing to se­cure po­lit­i­cal sup­port so they can con­tinue to ex­ist,” Boc­cia said.

But it’s pub­lic broad­cast­ing that’s been the re­cur­ring tar­get for con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers.

Many Repub­li­cans vowed to elim­i­nate its sub­si­dies in 1995, but the ef­fort fiz­zled. In 2005, Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling the House tried to cut sub­si­dies for PBS, Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio and hun­dreds of pub­lic ra­dio and TV sta­tions by $100 mil­lion, ig­nit­ing an out­cry from fans of “Sesame Street” and other de­fend­ers of pub­lic broad­cast­ing.

That bid failed. So did Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s re­peated tries to elim­i­nate CPB fund­ing al­to­gether — but not for the NEA or NEH — de­spite a GOP-con­trolled Congress in some years of his White House ten­ure.


Pres­i­dent and CEO Paula Kerger speaks at the PBS’s Ex­ec­u­tive Ses­sion at the 2017 Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion press tour Jan. 15 in Pasadena.

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