The U.S. House of Representatives, including Cortez Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, voted on a bill Thursday that would cut National Public Radio funding for KSJD Dryland Community Radio in Cortez and for other public radio stations.
The bill 1076 only focused on National Public Radio funding and the use of federal funds to acquire radio content, not an overall funding cut for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a measure now in the Senate.
The bill, passed 228-192 along mainly partisan lines, would bar federal funding of NPR and prohibit local public stations, like KSJD, from using federal money to pay NPR dues and buy its programs. The bill also prohibits using federal funds to purchase other content unaffiliated with NPR, such as Native American Calling, National Native News and Marketplace, that KSJD also carries.
NPR received about $5 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2010. Public radio stations used about $2.8 million from their federal grant money to pay dues to NPR in fiscal 2010.
NPR received $56 million in programming fees last year, its largest single source of revenue. Under the bill, stations could still use federal money to produce their own programs.
In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting distributed federal grant money to more than 600 public radio stations, which used that money to buy programs and pay dues to NPR.
NPR says that of its $145.5 million in budgeted revenues in the fiscal year ending last September, only 1.9 percent came from station dues. The biggest chunk, $63 million or 43 percent, came from station program fees. Another $36 million, or 24.7 percent, was derived from corporate sponsorships. About 3 percent came from grants from federally funded agencies such as the CPB and the National Endowment for the Arts.
KSJD Executive Director Jeff Pope said last week he feels NPR carries excellent programming and believes its the best radio news in America. The local station spends $19,000 a year to bring NPR programs to the area.
On Thursday, Pope said its too early to say if KSJD can continue to buy NPR programs if federal funding is cut.
It could affect many stations ability to carry NPR programs if this bill stays as it is and could affect KSJDs ability to carry NPR programming, he said.
Pope also questioned last week if the funding cut is being used as a political vendetta, an accusation that many Republicans, including Tipton, are denying.
For Congressman Tipton that wasnt the motivating factor behind his vote, said Josh Green, Tiptons press secretary. It really was just a decision to cut spending to a program that he thought was not necessary in the budget, and its one of many such cuts that will be happening.
NPR left itself open to conservative attacks last week when an executive, talking to conservative activists posing as members of a fake Muslim group, was caught on camera deriding the tea party movement and saying NPR would be better off without federal funding. Both the executive and the president of NPR resigned after the incident.
News analysts later said the hidden-camera video was edited in misleading ways to showcase inflammatory remarks from the executive. Analysts from the Poynter Institute and The Blaze, a website set up by Fox News host Glenn Beck, told an NPR reporter that they found a short version of the video deceiving when compared with the full two-hour tape of a lunch meeting between NPR fundraisers and two conservative activists posing as a fake Muslim group. The men offered NPR a $5 million donation and engaged in a wide-ranging political discussion.
The White House said it strongly opposed the bill, saying undercutting funding for these radio stations, notably ones in rural areas where such outlets are already scarce, would result in communities losing valuable programming, and some stations could be forced to shut down altogether.
KSJD listeners who tune into NPR shouldnt be too alarmed about Thursdays vote. The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where prospects for support are remote. However, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives recently passed a continuing resolution that eliminates all funding for public broadcasting beginning Oct. 1, 2012. That measure is now in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority.
The move to curtail federal subsidies for NPR follows a House vote last month, as part of the GOP plan to cut federal spending for the remainder of this budget year, to take back some $86 million budgeted for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the parent organization of NPR. That proposal, which also faces opposition in the Senate, does not provide for $430 million in future spending for CPB.
If that happens, KSJD could face some restructuring, resulting in the loss of some employees, changes in programming and delays in the Cornerstone Project, according to Pope. KSJD is a mainly volunteer based organization that has 100 volunteers who donate about 20,000 hours each year on programming and membership drives.
Reach Paula Bostrom at [email protected]