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Trump’s Budget Expected to Include Deep Cuts to Public Broadcasting and the arts

Variety logo Variety 3/15/2017 Ted Johnson
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Advocates for arts funding and public broadcasting are expecting President Donald Trump’s budget outline, to be unveiled on Thursday, to include devastating cuts to federal funding for organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

According to a source familiar with the conversations, officials at the National Endowment for the Arts were informed that the budget plan would call for zeroing out funding to that agency, along with its sister organization, the National Endowment for the Humanities. An NEA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, public broadcasting advocates also are expecting significant reductions in funding, after initial reports that members of Trump’s teams proposed privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That organization provides funding and grants to public television and radio stations, and a small portion of its budget directly to PBS and NPR. A spokeswoman for the CPB had no immediate comment, but it is expected that they will release a statement after the budget outline is unveiled.

This is certainly not the first time that federal funding of the arts and public broadcasting has been in the crosshairs. After Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, conservatives led by Speaker Newt Gingrich sought to eliminate funding for the NEA and public broadcasting in the mid-1990s, and he was stopped back then.

President George W. Bush actually increased funding for the NEA in years during his term, but he also proposed budgets that eliminated funding for public broadcasting.

Yet the programs have survived, after a public outcry and intense lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. The same is likely to be true this time around.

Congress decides the budget appropriation, and in recent months advocates have been lobbying lawmakers, preparing for a White House budget that includes serve cuts.

The NEA and the NEH each receive about $149 million in federal funding — a figure that has been pretty steady in recent years. The money goes to grants to state and local arts organizations, arts education programs, and arts groups, like an organization to bring Shakespeare to small- and mid-sized towns and cities.

Americans for the Arts, the chief organization advocating for federal arts funding, is planning a day of advocacy in Washington next Monday and Tuesday. The agenda includes lobbying on Capitol Hill, and a lecture from Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and performance by Anna Deavere Smith at the Kennedy Center. A spokeswoman said that 648 advocates have signed up, compared to about 500 in years past.

The CPB’s recent appropriations have run about $445 million.

Patrick Butler, the president of the America’s Public Television Stations, gave a speech last month in which he talked of past successful efforts to preserve funding, “and we’re still here.”

“We’re here because, whether the president chooses to or not, Congress listens to its constituents, who overwhelmingly support our work and the federal funding that ensures its reach to every American,” he said in his speech to the Public Media Summit last month.

He said that one of the members of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a centrist group, told him that “he thought we’d have at least 100 House Republicans on our side in a showdown vote on our funding.” He noted that Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees their funding, “recently said ‘there is a strong constituency for public broadcasting in both the House and Senate.'”

“Severe reductions in domestic spending will not be tolerated by the 48 Democrats in the Senate — or by a majority of appropriations in both parties,” Butler said in the speech.

APTS also have an award at its summit to a key Republican in the Senate, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). He is chairman of a Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees public broadcasting funding.

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