Thinking Inside the Box
U.S. Senate Considers Public Broadcasting Funding
by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV
Hi, Ellis Bromberg with a special "Thinking Inside the Box."
You know, for almost four decades now public television and radio stations, which operate under non-commercial licenses different from those of the local commercial stations and cable networks, for almost four decades our stations have received public funding. That's funding we have used to: assemble the only substantial educational children's lineup on television; to work with teachers across Wisconsin to deliver a daily schedule of series that are used as part of classroom curriculum; to offer lifelong learning for young and old; to celebrate the arts and history, environment and culture of Wisconsin in ways other stations do not; and to provide what the Roper Poll has found for seven straight years to be Americans' most-trusted source of news and information -- ranked #1 for fairness and trusted more than NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
Public funding has helped to ensure all these services. And how much does that add to your annual tax bill every year? About $1.35: $1.35 a year for all the public radio and television stations and programs and services throughout the country -- that's not a bad deal.
As you may know, lacking an approved federal budget for this fiscal year, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating. That resolution omits any reference to public broadcasting, effectively eliminating federal funding for every public television and radio station throughout the country.
About 10 percent of the Milwaukee Public Television budget comes from federal funding. Could we survive without it? Yes, but you would see a dramatic scale-back of content you value that commercial and cable stations don't provide. Unique and important programs could be gone forever. And stations across the country, mostly in rural areas, that rely on public funding to a greater extent than we do, could by forced to shut-down entirely.
Now, we've been upfront with our audience about the devastating effects this could have on public broadcasting. Many of you have responded with words of support and advice, and have let Congress know your views on this issue. And we thank you for that.
The Continuing Resolution now moves to the U.S. Senate, and we're going to make a plea again for you to call your Senators, Herb Kohl (202-224-5653) and Ron Johnson (202-224-5323) -- for our viewers in Illinois, Dick Durbin (202-224-2152) and Mark Kirk (202-224-2854) -- and tell them what you think of public broadcasting, and public funding for public broadcasting, pro or con.
On the Continuing Resolution, here's how it works: both chambers of Congress develop their own versions, and ultimately a conference committee will reconcile the two. So sharing your thoughts with the senators right now is very appropriate.
To find out the latest about what's happening in Congress, I encourage you to check out 170MillionAmericans.org, a website you can link to in the right-hand column of the mptv.org homepage. It's called "170 Million Americans" because that's the number of Americans who enjoy public television and radio programs, websites, and events every month.
I'm hopeful that the voices of viewers and listeners who value public broadcasting will be heard by those who represent us in Washington. No matter what you think about this issue, your voice can make a difference. Thanks again from all of us at Milwaukee Public Television.