Thinking Inside the Box


by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV

You may have noticed a new link on our homepage: Tell Them Public Matters!

If you clicked on it, you were redirected here. And when you are through reading this, I hope you'll click on the underlined sentence at the bottom of the page: "Tell Your Elected Representatives That MPTV Matters!"

It'll take you to, a site sponsored by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), as well as National Public Radio. Milwaukee Public Television is a member of both PBS and APTS, and the site provides our viewers with the very latest information on federal funding for public broadcasting, as well as an easy means for you to contact your congressional representative and senators on this matter. You'll also find testimonials from station viewers and members across the country who are speaking out about the importance of public broadcasting in their lives.

Last year, after a protracted debate on Capitol Hill, Congress agreed to restore most of the annual funding proposed to be cut by the Administration and the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. David Obey (D-Wausau) played a leading role in the reversal.

Unfortunately, this year again, the Administration and the House Appropriations Committee have taken aim at public broadcasting. The federal funding package emerging from the committee proposes $100 million (about 20 percent) in cuts to public broadcasting programs, including production of children's series and vital infrastructure additions needed by our stations to broadcast programs in the new digital format, a federal mandate.

Federal funds account for approximately $1.6 million, about 12 percent, of the MPTV operating and capital budget; at some other stations, particularly those in small and rural communities, the percentage of federal support is much higher. In any case, federal funding cuts can severely undermine local and national programming and critical projects.

Ralph Regula, the Ohio congressman who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on health and education funding, explained the cuts with this ludicrous Hobson's choice: "We've got to keep our priorities straight. You're going to choose between giving a little more money to handicapped children versus providing appropriations for public broadcasting."

No, there is nothing else in the federal budget -- no defense spending, no pork barrel projects, no unnecessary entitlements or tax exemptions -- that Rep. Regula and his colleagues would look at to ensure adequate funding of public broadcasting! Incredibly, the public is told that it would have to be at the expense of disabled youngsters!

By contrast, APTS President John Lawson noted that the proposed cuts inflict real damage and contradict other congressional goals:

"Many of these [committee] members decry indecency on television, but eliminate funding for noncommercial, educational programming for kids. They call for improving education and teacher quality, but zero out funding that uses technology to bring professional development to teachers. They eliminated funding for our satellite interconnection system while their colleagues introduced a bill that makes that system the backbone for a new emergency alert system for the country. And they eliminated funds we need for digital broadcasting, when Congress only six months ago mandated we had to end analog broadcasting. This...seems to be a willful disregard for what public broadcasting means to America."

The action has now moved to the U.S. Senate where the Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its appropriations bill, which includes federal funding for public broadcasting. Sen. Herbert Kohl serves on that committee; earlier this month, he (and Sen. Russ Feingold, too) signed a letter to its chairman indicating support of funding for public broadcasting at a level that is "at least equal" to the $524 million approved by Congress last year. We appreciate that!

So now, I encourage you to click on that underlined sentence below, "Tell Your Elected Representatives That MPTV Matters!" Read up on the issues, add some comments of your own -- and then please send an e-mail or letter to your U.S. representative and senators telling them why MPTV matters to you!

I'd welcome receiving a copy of your e-mail or letter. You can e-mail me at or send a copy of the letter to me at MPTV, 1036 N. 8th St., Milwaukee, WI 53233-1409.

As always, thanks for your support of MPTV!

Ellis Bromberg
MPTV General Manager

Tell Your Elected Representatives That MPTV Matters!