PBS President: Trump's Cuts Would Immediately Close “About 86” Rural Stations

PBS’ Paula Kerger: “We Are The Lifeline” For Children’s Educational Programming In Poor Households

From the Mach 19 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources:

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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): President Trump's budget proposal includes zero dollars. It includes an end for federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That's the group that divvies up money for local stations, for PBS, for NPR, and for programming, like, well, many years ago, Mister Rogers. Some Republican politicians have been trying to do this since the 1970s, but they've never succeeded. Will this year be different? 


PAULA KERGER: Well let me explain how we're funded and where the money runs and then you can understand how that also connects to our children's programming, which is such a significant part of what we do. So the majority of the federal appropriation actually goes to our stations. That represents about 15 percent, that’s one-five percent in aggregate. And that money is distributed out to stations, public television and radio stations, 1,500 of them in all, 179 television licensees. Now, for some stations, that represents a smaller percentage to their budget, usually in urban cities where there are lots of opportunities for people to raise money. But in rural parts of the country, we have about 86 stations that serve rural communities. It can represent as much as 50 or 60 percent of their budget. And so the reason that we fight for this funding so intently is that those stations would immediately go off the air. We care very much about making sure that every child in this country has access to Sesame Street and the kind of programming that we produce. And it is therefore very important that this public/private partnership between the federal government and the money that we're able to raise in philanthropic support really comes together to enable that every American has access.


KERGER: Our entire programming operating budget is less than Netflix spent on the production of The Crown, so that gives you a sense of how we really heavily leverage the small amount of federal preservation we get in order to provide a very robust service that really meets the needs of everyone across the country.


KERGER: So here's a statistic that maybe will blow your mind. Forty percent of the children that watch our preschool programming are watching over the air. And so I think often times we get caught in this argument that with all of the cable and with all the broadband, what is the relevance of public broadcasting? In many communities and in many homes that cannot afford cable or broadband, we are the lifeline. We are the way that people are receiving information, and most importantly, for the half of the kids in this country that are not enrolled in pre-K programs, we are their access to information that will help them succeed in school and in life. And that's what we're relentlessly focused on, and that's why this federal appropriation is so important to enable us to continue to provide that service in communities across the country.


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