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12 Talk: Urgent Congressional Action

KBDI and all of public broadcasting need your help, immediately.

During the past two months two key appropriations subcommittees of the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to cut federal funding to public broadcasting by 45 percent. If enacted by the full House, and ultimately the Senate, these cuts would be particularly devastating for KBDI and similar small budget public television and radio stations. They also would have terrible effects throughout public broadcasting at PBS, NPR and among stations of all sizes and kinds.

What’s going on, you may ask. The bare facts are stark and disturbing. The appropriations subcommittees are calling for:

  • Rescission of $100 million (25%) of previously appropriated funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for FY 2006.
  • Elimination of the two-year advance appropriations system for public broadcasting.
  • Elimination of all funding and the entire program of the Public Television Facilities Program in the Department of Commerce ($21 million).
  • Elimination of the Ready to Learn children’s educational program ($23 million).
  • Elimination of funding for the congressionally mandated public television digital conversion program at each station and for the digital upgrade of the public television interconnection system ($79 million).

The KBDI motto is “World View, Community Voice.” These federal funding reductions would cut directly to the heart of our ability to fulfill that mission for you and the citizens of Colorado.

The reductions would mean the loss of about $150,000 in direct funding for KBDI, and they would seriously threaten our rich mix of international and local programming. They would lead to the elimination of at least two of our local public affairs programs, and they also would undermine the excellent noncommercial, nonviolent children’s and educational programming you expect on KBDI.

The terms of these cuts were not entirely a surprise. The administration has been calling for measures such as this since 2001, and it did so again in the president’s budget message this past January. In prior years, Congress firmly turned back those requests and restored the cuts in the final budget. This year, however, the House leadership has refused to extend that lifeline, and in fact, in the words of public television’s chief spokesperson in Washington, this action represents “a clear and present danger” and “nothing less than a direct attack on public broadcasting in this country.”

Normally one might hope that the tide would turn when the budget debate got to the Senate. Historically the Senate has looked more kindly on public broadcasting than the House. But this year there are distinct signs that the majority leadership in the Senate will behave much as their House counterparts. At best the Senate might restore something of the cuts, but without a level-funding proposal from the House the fear is that through a compromise process the cuts could still be on the order of 25 percent.

The general concern of public broadcasting is that there are forces in Congress and the White House that want to see the elimination of all federal funding for public broadcasting, and frankly for all aspects of the arts and culture. If the proposed cuts go through this year it is probable that all federal funding for public broadcasting and other public culture programs will be phased out within two to three years.

So, along with public television leaders across the nation, and with the strong endorsement of the KBDI board of directors, I am calling on all our viewers, members, volunteers and friends, and all of their families and friends, to telephone their congressional representatives to express their dismay at the proposed cuts and to call for those representatives to (a) oppose the cuts and (b) restore level funding.

I am asking for you to make phone calls, not to write letters. The reason is that time is of the essence. We expect the full House appropriations committee to take up this matter within the week, possibly as soon as Friday, June 17, and the entire budget to be debated by the full House no later than Wednesday, June 22. During that process it is expected that friends of public broadcasting in the House will call for a straight up-and-down vote on an amendment to support public broadcasting. That is, each congress-person will be asked to say whether he or she supports public broadcasting and will vote to oppose the cuts.

It is essential therefore that every Member of Congress hears instantly and in overwhelming numbers from their constituents about this matter. If you wait to write letters it could be too late. We need you to call, now, and to encourage anyone else you know and who cares about public broadcasting to do likewise.

Here’s how to determine who to call.

  • First, for the moment focus on the House. That is, the call you want to make today is to your U.S. Representative. We’ll worry about the Senate later.
  • Second, if you are in doubt about who is your U.S. House Representative, or if you do not have his or her phone number, please visit our Contact Congress page which includes a full list of representatives or visit www.house.gov which allows you to find your representative by zipcode.
  • Third, once you have the number, phone your representative’s office and state in clear, certain terms that you want him or her to oppose the proposed cuts to public broadcasting and to provide level funding for it next year.

Many viewers and members will remember that public broadcasting faced a similar challenge in 1995, when the then House leadership likewise called for the “zeroing out” of federal funding for public broadcasting. Many also will remember that viewers and citizens all over the nation rose up in massive numbers then to defeat that scheme.

The challenge now, a decade later, is exactly the same. So, on behalf of Channel 12’s board of directors, I urge you to act immediately. Thank you for your time and effort, and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

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