The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There’s good news and bad news in the world of public media funding.

First, the good news.

In Oklahoma, plans to end all state support for the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority died in committee. And a separate reauthorization measure ensuring the survival of OETA until 2016 passed in committee by a single vote.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage — who once threatened to punch the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s statehouse correspondent — tried once again to kill state funding for MPBN. But lawmakers rejected the governor’s second consecutive proposal to cut state support.

And down in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott — who last year vetoed state funding for the Sunshine State’s public television stations — approved nearly $4 million for these stations in his new budget.

Give yourself a moment to dwell in the warm embrace of these happy developments.

Now it’s on to the bad news.

In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell cut almost all funding for public media in his proposed budget, prompting the Community Idea Stations, which owns public radio and television stations in Charlottesville and Richmond, to eliminate 11 positions. The layoffs represent an 18 percent workforce reduction. All that remains in the state allocation for public media is $500,000 designated for classroom use of digital educational content.

These various developments point to the precarious state of state-level public media funding. While we’d all like to believe that legislators evaluate state finances with utter objectivity, the reality is that public media funding has become something of a political football in recent years. As my colleague Josh Stearns points out in his report On the Chopping Block: State Budget Battles and the Future of Public Media, cuts to public media support are often “made to score political points, not to balance budgets.” When viewed in that context, it becomes clear that even good news of the kind noted here merits only limited cheer. So hold the kazoos until we find a way to shield public broadcasters — permanently — from political pressures.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good