Defunding NPR Likely Wouldn’t Go Into Effect for 2 Years

NPR receives funding from CPB, which receives roughly $450 million a year for public television and public radio

The headquarters for National Public Radio / Getty Images
March 12, 2017

Defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, an idea floated by the Trump administration, would likely take two years to go into effect.

The funding for CPB, which receives roughly $450 million a year for public television and public radio, is allotted two years in advance. Any appropriations bill that did not include new funding for the CPB would mean that it would not be defunded until fiscal year 2019.

President Donald Trump is expected to release his budget blueprint on Monday. Transition officials have signaled that the president plans dramatic cuts, including privatizing the CPB and eliminating both the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.

The move would cut funding to National Public Radio, widely considered liberal-leaning, which recently failed to disclose during an interview with Trump-bashing former CIA analyst Ned Price that he was a Hillary Clinton donor.

NPR claims federal funding is "essential," even though it also acknowledges that on average "less than 1 percent" of its annual operating budget comes from grants from the CPB.

Exact funding that NPR receives from the taxpayer is unclear. The CPB allots $99.1 million of its $445 million budget to public radio in the form of grants. Roughly $69 million are "unrestricted" grants for producing local content and covering station costs, and $22.8 million are "restricted," which are used to acquire and produce programming that is distributed nationally.

NPR said it received $1.272 million in CPB competitive grants in fiscal year 2015 and $65,000 from federal agencies. The nonprofit listed total assets of $344.2 million.

The CPB, however, lists $1.6 million in station grants to NPR for 2015. NPR also operates the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS), an interconnected system of over 1,500 local stations.

In 2014, the CPB issued 410 grants to 1,119 public radio stations. Grants included partnering a local radio station with the Environmental Protection Agency and church youth groups for an anti-littering campaign, and a "transgender awareness" program in Delaware.

In addition, since 2012 NPR has received $891,504 in grants and contracts from various federal agencies.

A spokesperson for the CPB told the Washington Free Beacon that NPR will receive $1.4 million for a programming grant that will support international coverage and photojournalism.

"CPB does not provide NPR with an annual support grant. However, CPB does, from time to time, provide NPR with programming grants," said Letitia M. King, a CPB spokesperson. "This year, CPB will be providing NPR with $1.4 million for its international reporting bureaus and the lead gift to the Gilkey-Tamana Memorial Fund supporting international coverage and photojournalism."

"In terms of public radio, contributions from individuals are tremendously important, as is the funding stewarded by CPB that equals 9 percent of the public radio stations’ revenues in total," she said. "To clarify, station revenue is distinct from NPR revenue as stations are locally owned and operated and NPR is a membership organization."

NPR says most of its funding comes from contributions from individuals listeners. Thirty-seven percent of funding comes from individuals, and 14 percent from taxpayers, including 9 percent from the CPB and 5 percent from federal, state, and local governments.

On its finances page on its website, NPR claims federal funds are "essential." But a few paragraphs later, the nonprofit radio company acknowledges that less than 1 percent of its budget comes from CPB grants.

"Federal funding is essential to public radio’s service to the American public," NPR says [emphasis in original]. "Its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR."

"Public radio stations receive annual grants directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that make up an important part of a diverse revenue mix that includes listener support, corporate sponsorship and grants," NPR continues. "Stations, in turn, draw on this mix of public and privately sourced revenue to pay NPR and other public radio producers for their programming."

"These station programming fees comprise a significant portion of NPR’s largest source of revenue," NPR says. "The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations' ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution."

NPR adds that eliminating federal funding would result in "less journalism."

The Trump administration is expected to propose the elimination of the CPB's federal funding, and the budget blueprint in general will likely mirror the recommendations of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative caucus in the House.

The Republican Study Committee has long recommended cutting the CPB, arguing a "free society should not have government-supported media outlets, especially ones that so often convey political news and opinion."

The most likely way the $445 million budget would be cut is through the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018, which will be taken up by Congress this summer.

Since 1975, funding for the CPB has been approved two years in advance, funding for fiscal year 2018 for the CPB has already been approved. By eliminating CPB funding in this year's appropriations bill, funding would not cut off until FY 2019.

President Trump could also direct funding to be cut immediately, which would rescind any funds that public television and radio have not already spent.

A Republican budget aide told the Free Beacon that the Trump administration’s blueprint will likely mirror the Republican Study Committee’s budget and would defund the CPB beginning in two years.

Defunding the CPB could also face hurdles through the appropriations bill process, since the Labor, HHS, and Education bill is rarely passed through regular order. Funding for the agencies most often comes in the form of a continuing resolution or omnibus bill.

The Republican aide said the two-year advance funding makes it more likely that the CPB could be defunded, since members would not have to be concerned that public radio and television funds would be stripped immediately. The two-year time period would give NPR and other public radio stations time to ramp up fundraising efforts to make up for the lost funds.

CPB spokesperson King said the loss of federal funding would be "devastating."

"CPB is a private corporation that supports 1,500 public television and radio stations," she said. "Through public-private partnerships, these stations raise approximately $6 for every dollar CPB provides. If federal funding, which has been level at $445 million since FY 2012, were to disappear, stations would have to raise approximately 200 percent more in private donations to replace the federal investment."

King said public media would be "severely eroded" because CPB pays for copyright fees, and direct payments to support local stations.

King also said there is "no" argument that the two-year advance funding would give public radio and television enough time to make up the lost revenue, pointing to a Government Accountability Office report that found a loss of federal funding "risks the collapse of the system itself."

"CPB serves as the steward of the federal appropriation, ensuring that 95 cents of every dollar it receives goes to support local stations and the trusted children’s educational content and public safety services they offer to their communities," she said. "The federal investment in public media is indispensable to sustaining the operations of public broadcasting stations, capitalizing on the benefits of an integrated system, and fostering stations’ public service mission with community-based accountability and universal service."

NPR did not respond to requests for comment.

Published under: Government Spending