NPR, public television won’t get budget ax

April 12, 2011

Despite Republican-led calls to strip funding from NPR, public broadcasting emerged largely unscathed in the federal budget compromise hammered out in Congress over the past week.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which passes federal funds to public radio and TV stations, is slated to receive $445 million from Congress — essentially the same amount it received in its last appropriation, according to details of the continuing federal budget resolution released Tuesday.

The proposed funding is a huge victory for public broadcasters, particularly NPR, which has suffered a series of public-relations disasters that have strengthened conservative calls to eliminate its federal support. Washington-based NPR fired commentator Juan Williams in October; chief executive Vivian Schiller resigned last month in the wake of an embarrassing video “sting” by a conservative activist that captured two of NPR’s top fundraisers making disparaging remarks about Republicans and tea party members.

In a further victory for public radio, the proposed budget places no restrictions on how CPB can dole out federal funds to stations. House Republicans, led by Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.), had sought to restrict public radio from using CPB-granted funds to pay dues to NPR for its programming. Democrats killed that provision.

NPR receives less than 2 percent of its operating funds directly from Washington; the bulk of its funding comes from hundreds of public stations, which pay fees in exchange for NPR-produced programs such as “All Things Considered.” PBS is also largely funded this way by public TV stations.

“We feel the [continuing resolution] recognizes that public radio is providing an essential public service and that continued federal funding is critical to keeping public radio strong,” said Anna Christopher, an NPR spokeswoman.

The House voted 228 to192 in mid-March to bar NPR from receiving any federal money, but Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House opposed that measure.

Efforts to strip public stations of federal funds appear to have been largely confined to the Republican-dominated House. But public broadcasting advocates have said consistently that public stations enjoy bipartisan ­support, particularly in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Congress will vote this week on the budget, which would keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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