NEW YORK -- Public broadcasting officials vowed Monday to fight drastic cuts President Bush is seeking to make to federal financing for public television and radio, warning that the reductions would seriously impair station operations.
Bush's proposed 2009 budget, released Monday, would more than halve the federal allocation to public broadcasting over the next two years, the deepest cuts to the system that he's proposed during his administration.
Under Bush's plan, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, a private nonprofit that distributes the funds to local stations, would lose $420 million of the $820 million in federal funds it was set to receive over the next two years. In addition, the White House budget does not include advance funding for the 2011 fiscal year. The corporation is usually financed three years ahead of time to insulate the system from politics.
"The administration's proposal is consistent with the evolving role of public broadcasting in a marketplace that has benefited from the tremendous growth and diversity of programming," said Office of Management and Budget spokesman Sean Kevelighan.
CPB President Patricia Harrison called the proposed reductions "draconian."
The federal funds make up about 16% of a local station's budget, on average. However, some small stations in rural communities depend on the money to operate and could be forced to shut down if the cuts are approved, she said.
"What the cuts do is hit those stations least able to continue," Harrison said.
Public broadcasting advocates were taken aback by the scale of the cuts but are optimistic Congress will restore the funding.
John Lawson, president of the Assn. of Public Television Stations, said, "We prevented these cuts when the Republicans were in control of Congress, and even though the budget situation for the Democrats is very tight, we expect they will again make us whole."
Ken Stern, chief executive of National Public Radio, said the reductions would diminish the "information, context and community that we provide more than 30 million citizens weekly." He called on listeners to contact members of Congress to protest.
Public broadcasters hope that Congress will not only roll back the cuts but will also grant an increase to the corporation's budget in 2011, raising its allotment to $483 million.