Eye on the General Assembly: House budget bill tunes out public broadcasting

communityideasThe House Appropriations Committee has recommended eliminating the state’s contribution to public broadcasting stations, and the PBS organization in Richmond is seeking viewers’ help to save its funding.

The proposed cut comes as the General Assembly considers slashing expenditures for an array of services, including public schools and Medicaid, to plug a $4 billion hole in the state budget.

Both the Senate Finance Committee and Gov. Tim Kaine recommended cutting only 10 percent of public broadcasting’s funding.

“The House Appropriations Committee took a much more drastic approach,” said A. Curtis Monk, president of Community Idea Stations, which operates the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio stations in Richmond and other cities.

“It has voted to zero out funding for public broadcasting in Virginia, leaving only the instructional services grant that supports our K-12 educational efforts.”

According to Monk, the proposed funding cuts total more than $3 million statewide: “The Community Idea Stations would lose nearly $700,000 in annual funding that is essential to our operation.”

Monk warned that his organization might have to reduce its local productions, curtail early childhood programs and limit reporting on local news and politics. The Community Idea Stations would also stop covering the governor’s annual State of the Commonwealth address.

“We could end up airing only programs created in other parts of the country, with no attention paid to regional needs and issues. This approach would violate the heart of public broadcasting’s mission as set forth more than 40 years ago,” Monk said.

The chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Del. Lacey Putney (I-Bedford), could not be reached for comment.

The House’s version of the budget passed 88-11 and has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The General Assembly hopes to finalize the budget before the legislative session ends Feb. 28.

Monk urged his group’s supporters to contact members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee as legislators try to figure out the differences between the House and Senate bills.

WCVE, the PBS station in Richmond, is the oldest station operated by the Community Ideas Stations. It was founded in 1964 as the first educational television station in Virginia, followed by WCVW Richmond PBS in 1968.

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