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The Impact and Ignorance of the War on Public Broadcasting

For years, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has received around $445,000,000 from the Federal government; that’s about 0.01% of the budget. That may not seem burdensome for most (especially if you’re one of the millions of citizens who consumes their content), but for many of our representatives, not only should they not get more funding, but their whole organization should get even less, or be totally cut off.

President Trump, whose proposed budget would cut funding for the CPB entirely, said in March that we shouldn’t “continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for … the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” Sure, it’s not like West Virginia has had a statewide broadcasting network for nearly 50 years; and there’s no way the CPB gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television, and WDET-FM, right?

Yes, GOP lawmakers have attempted to defund public broadcasting for years. There was of course Mitt Romney’s famed Big Bird remark, as well as calls in 2012 from congressman Doug Lamborn and infamous former senator Jim DeMint to cut funding for the CPB, arguing that “in today’s media landscape, consumers have many news and entertainment choices, unlike when the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act to create and fund CPB was passed.”

It’s clear that many of us benefit from public radio and television; whether you’re a parent whose kids watch programs like Sesame Street, or a small-town worker who relies on his local news station, or really anyone who regularly consumes public media, the ongoing war being waged upon the CPB directly affects you.

In Breaking Through Power, Ralph Nader remarks that “as viewers and listeners of PBS and NPR know too well, the sponsorship from commercial firms has augmented the budgets of these non-profit media. Such funding is just crumbs for One Percenters like the Koch brothers, but a lifeline for those who have no other way to get a real piece of the pie.” Fortunately, despite sponsors like Koch and ExxonMobil, programs like Frontline have tackled the growing issue of climate change, and PBS does generally provide bold and ethical journalism. That said, if the CPB’s financial security continues to be this up-in-the-air, they may be forced to make compromises with the evil bastards they are forced to work with.

The empowerment of the CPB should be of the utmost concern for all who wish to maintain an independent public media, which is beholden to none other than the people.

Ezra Kronfeld is an independent writer, poet, and journalist. His full body of work can be accessed at ezrakronfeldwritesstuff.wordpress.com.