Another View of the Federal Funding Debate

While the media and special interest groups tend to portray the current debate over federal funding for public broadcasting as a “partisan issue,” a few days in Washington, meeting with our elected officials, again proved that there's support for public media on both sides of the aisle. 

Representative Louise Slaughter (D-28th), the co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, reaffirmed her strong support for public broadcasting and especially for WXXI.  Rep. Slaughter has a long history with WXXI, and helped push for the acquisition of a second station to allow WXXI to present full time classical music and full time news and public affairs.  That support hasn’t wavered over the years.

But we also heard extremely positive comments from one of the freshman in the Upstate Delegation, Representative Richard Hanna (R-24th).  Rep. Hanna was one of seven Republican members who voted against the bill to defund NPR.  He shared with me the statement he released after the vote:

"In my short time here, I have voted to cut government spending by billions of dollars, however, this bill does not save taxpayers a dime.

This legislation restricts funding for one media organization, NPR, while allowing others to continue receiving federal dollars.

I am troubled that this bill would have government picking winners and losers in the media.  This bill was unnecessarily rushed through the House and amounts to political censorship through the power of the purse.

We need to redouble our focus on fostering private sector job creation and considering serious and thoughtful budget reforms that put our nation on a sound fiscal footing. And we need to do it now."

We’re grateful for Rep. Hanna’s support, and also appreciate Representative Tom Reed (R-29th), who promised to keep an open mind on future votes on federal funding.  Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (R-25th) had to leave our meeting to take part in a vote in the House, but she promised to visit WXXI when she’s in Rochester to learn more about the ways we serve the community.

Both of New York’s U.S. Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, reaffirmed their strong support for continued federal funding.

Certainly, there will be many debates about what the nation can afford at a time when deficits must be reduced.  There will be reductions to many worthy programs, and those of us in public media understand that – and are prepared to do our part. 

WXXI serves the entire community and we strive to present all points of view.  Even those who question federal funding (for the record, 1/100th of one percent of the federal budget goes to public broadcasting), are generally complimentary of our programming – from children’s and educational shows on television to in-depth news and civil talk on the radio.

Our “Capitol Hill Days” meetings also gave us a chance to share innovative ideas and projects with our colleagues from throughout the nation.  WXXI was asked to present a session on ways to use digital television to serve local communities, and I had the opportunity to review a recent project with the Rochester City Fire Department.  While I was in DC, our Executive Producer for Television was in New York City, accepting two New York Emmy Awards for WXXI productions.

Thank you for your support and for your many calls and emails of encouragement.  All of us at WXXI are working toward the same goal – to continue to merit your support and trust in the years ahead.