Big Bird and NPR
- I didn't mean to bring up distention about Public Radio because this is bigger than that, but there was a story in the paper today about how NPR and other Public Supported viewing has been funded thanks to the great turnout of people like you who support this endeavor. Here's the story:
June 24, 2005, 9:48AM
PBS gets fiscal reprieve; House restores funds
WASHINGTON - Big Bird and National Public Radio won a reprieve Thursday as the House restored $100 million that had been proposed as a budget cut for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The 284-140 vote showed the enduring political strength of public broadcasting, whose supporters rallied behind such popular programs as Sesame Street, Postcards From Buster and The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.
The Public Broadcasting Service undertook a high-profile campaign to rescind the proposed cut. Lawmakers were flooded with letters and phone calls.
The vote came as the House worked on a $142.5 billion spending bill for health, education and labor programs for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.
The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee had cut $100 million from $400 million in previously enacted support.
The committee also eliminated subsidies for educational programs and technological upgrades.
Republicans who favored the cuts said federal subsidies provide only about 15 percent of the public broadcasting budget. The rest, they said, comes from private and corporate donors, as well as licensing and royalties from programming.
They said the $100 million cut would amount to only about 4 percent of all spending on public broadcasting.
"Big Bird and his friends can fly on their own," said Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.
PBS still might end up with less money than in its current budget. The legislation would eliminate a $23 million for the Ready to Learn program, which subsidizes children's educational programming and distributes learning materials.
The corporation was set up by Congress in 1967 to shield public broadcasting from political influence. It distributes federal subsidies to PBS, National Public Radio and hundreds of public radio and television stations.
The corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a GOP appointee, has made news recently with his contention that public broadcasting is too liberal.
Also Thursday, the corporation's board selected Patricia S. Harrison, a former Republican Party co-chairman, as president and chief executive.
Harrison, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, was selected after three days of closed meetings. She was co-chair of the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2001.
Liberal public interest groups criticized the decision, saying Harrison has no experience in public broadcasting.
"It sets the wrong tone for dealing with some of the challenges that are facing the CPB right now," said Chellie Pingree, Common Cause president and chief executive. "She has all the wrong experience and comes across as too partisan of a player for this particular job."
Conservatives countered that partisans have held leadership positions in public broadcasting before. Frank Mankiewicz, former president of National Public Radio, served as press secretary to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and as presidential campaign director for Sen. George McGovern.