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PBS, Hollywood & New York Denounce Trump’s Proposed Cultural Budget Cuts

Deadline logo Deadline 3/16/2017 Greg Evans
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Update with guilds statement The DGA, SAG-AFTRA and WGA West and East are urging the nation’s leaders to preserve funding for the NEA and the CPB. See full statement below.

Previous Officials of the Public Broadcasting Service are reminding Congress of PBS’ historically “strong support” among both Republican and Democratic voters – support the organization will need to fend off massive budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump that would eliminater the Corporation for Public broadcasting – the major funder of  PBS programming – as well as the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

“PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger in a statement released this morning. (See below for full statement).

“The cost of public broadcasting is small,” Kerger continued, “only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse.”

PBS’s response came as Trump proposed ending all federal funding for public broadcasting, as Deadline first reported here. The move signals the gravest threat to the existence of PBS and NPR in a long history of political antagonism toward the organizations.

Patricia Harrison, CEO for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said Trump’s devastating budget cuts would lead to the “collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service. “The CPB receives approximately $450 million annually from the federal government, then distributes grants to local TV and radio stations and producers.

Killing the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities has been a treasured goal of Congressional Republicans since the Reagan era “culture wars” of the 1980s. Those efforts until now have proved fruitless in the wake of widespread public support of arts funding, and the example set by most other civilied nations, where funding of the arts and humanities is seen as both an economic stimulator and the sign of an enlightened culture. Rocco Landesman, a Broadway theater owner and producer who chaired the arts endowment during the first administration of President Barack Obama, was sanguine about the proposed cuts.

“The budget process is always long and arduous,” Landesman told Deadline in an email Thursday morning. “In recent years the NEA and NEH have had strong bi-partisan support in Congress, so we’re a long way from a final result. The proposed budget is Round 1. ”

“Support from the federal government plays a tiny role in the subsidy of the arts landscape, but it can be highly leveraging throughout the private sector,” says former NEA chief Rocco Landesman. “And it can be especially important in communities outside of major urban centers.”

Nevertheless, Landesman remains adamant about the need for public support of culture and the arts.

“We live in a capitalist economy but there is general agreement that the marketplace shouldn’t be the sole determinant of what art is produced and accessed,” Landesman says. “Support from the federal government plays a tiny role in the subsidy of the arts landscape, but it can be highly leveraging throughout the private sector. And it can be especially important in communities outside of major urban centers.”

In a strongly worded report on the cultural and economic impact of the proposed budget cuts, New York City comptroller Scott M. Stringer wrote:

“Eliminating the N.E.A. would have a significant impact on the City, disrupting funding for hundreds of cultural organizations and jeopardizing programs for the millions of New Yorkers they serve. Organizations supported by the N.E.A. have an outsized impact on the city, delivering arts programming and education in scores of neighborhoods, spurring creativity and critical thinking, and providing thousands of jobs to local residents.”

Stringer’s report, “Culture Shock: The Importance of National Arts Funding to New York City’s Cultural Landscape” (read it here) emphasizes the impact of federal arts funding not just in the “elitist preserve” of Manhattan, but in underserved areas of the other four boroughs, as well as across the nation.

“[T]he cultural ecosystem the N.E.A. supports is essential to the vitality of New York City and the nation at-large,” Stringer wrote. “From the school house to the retirement home, the arts provide a medium for self-understanding and self-expression. They are a means for engaging different cultures and heritages as well as cultivating and sustaining a collective identity.”

Here is the statement from PBS’s Kerger. Deadline will post other responses to the President’s proposal as they arrive:

Dear Colleague:

PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country. We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting. The cost of public broadcasting is small, only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse.

Two new national surveys — one by Rasmussen Reports (subscribers) and another conducted jointly by leading Republican and Democratic researchers for PBS — reveal that voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose eliminating federal funding for public television. Rasmussen shows that just 21% of Americans – and only 32% of Republicans –favor ending public broadcasting support. In the PBS Hart Research-American Viewpoint poll, 83% of voters – including 70% of those who voted for President Trump – say they want Congress to find savings elsewhere.

As word spread this morning of the likely impact of the proposed cuts, some in the film and TV communities turned to social media to voice their displeasure.

Guilds statement:

“The DGA, SAG-AFTRA and WGA West and East—as the Guilds representing creators and performers in American film, television, radio, sound recordings and digital media—urge our nation’s leaders to preserve funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. As a source of inspiration, action and economic growth our country’s creative arts are integral to our culture, our American identity and our democracy. Access to the arts has fueled generations of great Americans, uplifted communities and helped heal our nation’s greatest divides. Cutting federal support of these programs will not only hurt artists and those who benefit from their work, it will also send a damaging message to future generations about the power of art and its place in our culture.”

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