Trump’s Team Said to Be Planning to Privatize Public Broadcasting

Sesame Street Live 30th Anniversary
Characters from Sesame Street Live appear on the street by Madison Square Garden to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the live touring stage shows based on the PBS television series in New York, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. From left are Ernie, Bert, Elmo, Cookie Monster (foreground), Abby Cadabby, and Zoe. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Photograph by Kathy Willens — AP

As Donald Trump’s transition team prepares for the real-estate magnate to take control of the White House, senior advisers are looking at all of the various departments for ways they can reduce spending. One of the suggestions being considered, according to a recent report, is the privatization of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.

The incoming administration is looking to table major reductions in funding for almost all government departments, which it says would reduce federal spending by as much as $10.5 trillion, political news site The Hill said in a report on Thursday.

In addition to larger cuts that would affect the Commerce and Energy Departments, the Trump team is said to be thinking about selling off the public broadcasting agency, and ending both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

According to The Hill, much of what the Trump team is proposing comes from budget recommendations made by two conservative groups last year: 1) The Heritage Foundation, which published a mock 2017 federal budget called “A Blueprint for Balance,” and 2) The Republican Study Committee, which published a document it called “Blueprint for a Balanced Budget.”

The Heritage Foundation noted that when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created in 1967, “households faced very limited broadcasting options. As technology has grown since the corporation’s inception, media sources for accessing the news and broadcasting have greatly increased.”

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In its budget proposals, the Republican Study Committee–made up of 172 Republican members of the House of Representatives–argued that “a free society should not have government-supported media outlets, especially ones that so often convey political news and opinion. There is no shortage of media outlets and news services available to consumers.”

In an email to the site Common Dreams, which focuses on news for what it calls “the progressive community,” the CPB said that federal investment in public broadcasting is vital, especially for stations that are located in rural America, “and those serving under-served populations.” The agency added that the loss of this funding “would have a devastating effect.”

The Corporation For Public Broadcasting was created in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the Public Broadcasting Act and set up government funding for the agency. The CPB eventually created what became the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the National Public Radio (NPR) network.

Compared with some other government departments and spending, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is relatively minuscule. It got just $445 million from the government in 2014, and the vast majority of that was spent helping the more than 1,400 public radio and television stations that are part of the PBS and NPR networks.

According to the Washington Post, the endowment for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting made up approximately 0.01% of the overall federal budget last year.

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