WASHINGTON – Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn introduced two resolutions this week that would strip hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding from National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that he says could be better spent on the U.S. military.
The two resolutions brought forth in the House of Representatives, HR 726 and HR 727, are not the first pieces of legislation aimed at defunding public media outlets. Lamborn sponsored a bill in the 112th Congress, which ran from 2010-11, that also stripped funding. It passed the House, but failed in the Senate.
Lamborn told NPR at the time that “we no longer need to subsidize broadcasting,” pointing to a wealth of cable channels and the expansion of internet-integrated mobile devices.
But in a statement announcing the latest legislation, Lamborn pointed to a multi-trillion dollar national debt and his perceived need to go to work “rebuilding our military and enhancing our national security” as reasons for again sponsoring such a resolution.
“Republicans and the new Administration need to demonstrate that we take our fiscal responsibility seriously. American taxpayers do not want their hard-earned dollars funding superfluous government programs just because that is the way things have always been done,” Lamborn said in a statement.
He added that the plan wasn’t about the quality of the broadcasters’ programming.
“This is not about content, as CPB certainly airs some quality programs; the point is that it is perfectly capable of standing on its own two feet and not on the financial shoulders of the American taxpayers,” his statement continued.
CPB, the parent corporation to PBS and NPR, received $445 million in federal appropriations in both FY 2015 and FY 2016, bringing the average cost to Americans to $1.35 per year, according to CPB.
CPB says more than 70 percent of the funds is passed along to local stations and that less than 5 percent is spent on its own operations.
The money passed on to local stations through grants brings money to 1,123 public radio stations and 366 public television stations, it says. About 100 people are staffed by CPB, but more than 16,000 are employed by public media stations nationwide.
Under the bill, public broadcasting would have to be funded privately. The bill would strip funding starting in FY 2019.
The bill aimed at NPR and its subsidiaries would prohibit direct federal funding to it and prohibit public radio stations from buying programming or paying dues to NPR with federal restricted grant money they receive.
NPR received $5 million in direct funding from the federal government and CPB in FY 2016, and programming fees and local station dues to NPR bring it tens of millions of dollars each year.
The $445 million of federal money to CPB in 2016 amounted to just .01 percent of the government’s spending that year, according to the Washington Post.
In a statement to Denver7, CPB said that similar bills had “been circulating around Washington for years and have been soundly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”
The statement said such a move to eliminate federal funds would leave public media “severely debilitated,” especially among rural stations, which amount to more than one-third of public media services.
“The federal investment in public media is vital seed money — especially for stations located in rural America, and those serving underserved populations where the appropriation counts for 40-50% of their budget. The loss of this seed money would have a devastating effect. These stations would have to raise approximately 200 percent more in private donations to replace the federal investment,” CPB added in a statement.
NPR issued the following statement to Denver7 in response to Lamborn’s proposal:
“We’re aware of this development and will follow it closely. We’re also aware of a recent public statement by a leading House Republican appropriator, who said, ‘there is a strong constituency for public broadcasting in both the House and the Senate.’ Millions of Americans depend on their local public radio station for the fact-based, unbiased, public service journalism they need to stay informed about the world and about the news in their own communities. Federal funding is essential to making that happen.”