Trump may take an ax to Big Bird’s friends
March 16, 2017
• Central Valley’s PBS stations worry about slashed budget
• “Would be a debilitating blow”
As President Donald Trump’s budget ax slashes most discretionary federal spending other than for the military, the friends of Big Bird are worried they may be collateral damage.
The head of Mr. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget in a phone call Wednesday said the president wants to eliminate all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB helps fund programming for the nation’s public radio and television stations. Many of the TV stations have carried the program "Sesame Street," with its memorable Big Bird character.
Such an action “defies the will of the American people and would devastate the educational and public safety missions of public television they value most,” says a written statement from Pat Butler, president of America’s Public Television Stations.
By the time federal dollars are divvied up among hundreds of broadcast outlets and other needs, the dollar amounts seem small. But for local public TV stations, they make up a large part of operating funds.
“For our current fiscal year, the investment of approximately $1.5 million from CPB to KVIE will be part of an expected $13.5 million revenue budget,” says David Lowe, president and general manager of the Sacramento-based public television station in an email to CVBT.
“Losing that funding to KVIE would be a debilitating blow to a service that almost everyone in our region uses,” he says. “The President’s proposed budget to eliminate funding for public broadcasting goes against not only those of us who live in Central and Northern California but against the majority of Americans.”
What has the feathers of Big Bird – and others – fluffed is just a preview of Mr. Trump’s final budget. The actual document won’t be revealed until later in the Spring.
And, says Valley PBS Inc. President & CEO Phil Meyer, the president's budget is just one step in the process of determining final federal funding levels. Ultimately, it is the decision of Congress to determine which programs they find worthy of federal investment and annual appropriations.
“Locally, the Central Valley provides over 80 percent of our annual budget through contributions. The station’s grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting makes up the remaining 20 percent,” Mr. Meyer says.
Valley PBS owns and operates public television station KVPT in Fresno, along with a translator station in Bakersfield.