Most of the organization’s money goes toward keeping rural PBS and NPR stations alive.
Of all the cuts proposed in President Trump’s new budget, the proposal to eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is perhaps most poorly understood.
Because the CPB is an umbrella agency involved with PBS and NPR, any time the government considers cuts to the agency, it’s usually interpreted as the government defunding Sesame Street (which airs in first run on HBO now, before being rerun on PBS) or some other PBS Kids production. But the majority of PBS programming is produced by outside entities — member stations, another country’s broadcasters, or independent production companies (like Sesame Workshop) — and those outside entities usually secure their funding via means other than the government.
It’s true that just over 23 percent of the CPB’s budget (nearly entirely derived from the federal government) goes toward the development and acquisition of television and radio programming. And, yes, losing that stipend will hurt PBS and NPR on some level — though the difference will probably be covered by private funding, whether thanks to corporations, grant foundations, or the famous “viewers like you.”
But most of the federal government’s dollars to CPB (just over 65 percent) go toward one thing: keeping rural PBS and NPR stations alive. These stations only continue to operate due to funding from the federal government. If Trump’s proposed budget becomes law, PBS and NPR themselves will continue to exist, on TV, on the radio, and on digital platforms. So will local affiliates in major urban areas. But many of those rural stations will be shuttered.
The rural areas served by those stations backed Trump heavily. He received 62 percent of the vote in rural counties. Thus, his budget’s proposed defunding of CPB is yet another way that a policy proposed by Trump seems as if it will have the most adverse effect on those who voted for him.
It’s expensive to broadcast in rural areas
Though the majority of the country has access to cable television, broadband internet, and other forms of mass communication, there are still areas where significant percentages of the population get their TV “over the air” — which is to say they pull in signals with an antenna. (Almost all of us still do this with radio.)