Canton Repository

June 24, 2005

House gives $100M to broadcasting

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted to restore $100 million in federal funding to public broadcasting next year, virtually ensuring that local public television and radio stations would not suffer any significant cuts in aid in 2006.

In doing so, lawmakers rejected the arguments of Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, who had urged them to trim the federal subsidy to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to $300 million next year from $387 million this year.

The corporation distributes funds to more than 1,000 local stations, which raise more than half of their support from private sources.

The 284-140 vote would provide $400 million to the corporation next year, the amount the House approved two years ago. That figure is not final, since the Senate has yet to approve its own version of the legislation. But the Senate has been even more supportive of federal aid to public broadcasting than the House.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, voted to restore the funding, along with 86 other Republicans and every voting Democrat. Reps. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, and Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, voted to increase the funding. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, did not vote. Among Republicans, 140 voted to cut the funding, including Regula.

“Oh wow, that’s fabulous,” said Trina Cutter, president and general manager of PBS 45 and 49 television stations in Alliance and Akron, when told of the action. “I’m relieved and extremely grateful.”

The $100 million in increased funding to broadcasting would be offset primarily through a 2 percent reduction in administrative budgets at the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., who proposed the increased funding, defended the offsets, which he said would “do as little damage to management accounts as is humanly possible.”

Regula countered that the cuts would hurt services provided to people.

“How are you going to have job retraining if you don’t have anybody to do it?” he said. “It’s going to impact on the program itself.”

The vote followed a brief but intense effort by public broadcasting and its supporters to pressure Congress to reverse the cut, which was authored by Regula.

Lawmakers were deluged with phone calls from constituents who opposed the cuts. Public stations across the nation, including WKSU-FM in Kent, publicized the proposed reductions to their viewers.

Al Bartholet, general manager of WKSU-FM, said the station provided information on the cuts during its summer fund drive and also on its Web site.

“We’ve had special announcements on the air from me in regard to having people express their opinions on this topic,” he said.

Regula proposed the reduction as part of a tight, $142.5 billion federal spending bill that provides federal aid to education, health care and job training.

“We have made a commitment to reduce federal deficits,” he said, describing a bill that provides funding to more than 500 programs while eliminating 49.

Regula said public broadcasting was better able to sustain reductions than many other programs, since it has “the capacity to raise a lot of money in the (private) sector.”

“On the other end of the scale are young people that need an opportunity for job training, that need an opportunity to participate in the American dream,” he said, noting that such programs have less ability to raise private support.