Debates over funding for public broadcasting are nothing new. The level of deliberations – and funding cuts – has increased dramatically in recent years, threatening the future existence of public television and radio outlets. Some states are currently being hit harder than others with many (including Indiana) suffering. Stateline writes:
Idaho Public Television already has seen its state funding cut by 61 percent since July 2008, necessitating layoffs, furloughs and the frequent airing of re-runs. The governor’s proposal, according to the agency, would force it to reduce or eliminate most of its local programming—and cease serving many rural parts of the state altogether.
"We’ve had to take a look at everything we’re doing in state government and asking the question, why?” Jon Hanian, a spokesman for (Gov. Butch) Otter, says of the proposal. “We’re looking at everything and asking, ‘Is this or is this not a proper role of government?’ We’re also differentiating between things that we’ve started doing because it’s nice and things that we must do because it’s necessary."
The challenges that Idaho Public Television is facing are emblematic of the decisions that public television agencies and stations around the country will have to make if states decide that public television is no longer a business they can afford to be in. According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), state and local funding for public television stations nationwide declined by $36 million between 2008 and 2009. CPB forecasts an additional $45 to $49 million in state and local cuts for the upcoming fiscal year.
States have cut back on funding during previous economic downturns, says Mark Erstling, a senior vice president at CPB, but this downturn poses a new threat. "The revenue sources always made up the difference,” he says. “This time around, everything is basically down." Total non-federal sources of revenue, including member donations and corporate underwriting, declined by $200 million from 2008 to 2009. CPB is concerned that member donations may begin to decline more sharply, as they tend to be the last source of public broadcasting revenue to drop during economic downturns.