June 17, 2005

Cuts could devastate local public broadcasting

by Sue Davis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale administrators say proposed cuts in federal funding for public broadcasting proposed by Congress would have devastating consequences for local viewers and listeners. The proposed cuts are for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

WSIU receives about 34 percent of its annual operating budget from federal sources. That allows the University's radio and television stations to provide a wide range of local news programming, locally produced features, and educational support services to schools and early learning centers across the southern tip of the state.

"The federal funding lets us compete for many grants that require matching funds, providing seed money that helps generate the rest of our budget," explained Candis Isberner, executive director of SIUC's public broadcasting stations.

A vote on the full House floor is expected on Wednesday, June 23. Current language would cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's funding nationally from $549 million this year to about $300 million next year. Funding for public broadcasting generally cycles through Congress every three years. Proposals would also change that to a yearly cycle.

Current House language calls for $300 million in funding for the coming year, and no funding level proposed for fiscal year 2007. Action yesterday added funding at a $400 million level for fiscal year 2008.

The Senate is expected to begin deliberations in mid-July.

WSIU radio and television stations today began running public service announcements encouraging viewers and listeners to call members of their congressional delegations.

Private donations help all public television stations, but Isberner says it is unlikely Southern Illinois residents would be able to fill the hole the cuts would create. "Our viewers and listeners are very generous, but our market isn't as large as public stations in major metropolitan areas," she explained.

"We really hope that those who support public broadcasting will call and let their senators and congressional representatives know public broadcasting is important."