On Thursday, June 23, the full House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006. During that debate, Representatives David Obey (D-WI), Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Jim Leach (R-IA) intend to offer an amendment to restore $100 million in FY 2006 funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that was rescinded by the House Appropriations Committee. According the sponsors of the amendment, the restoration of funds will be paid for using small reductions in administrative overhead accounts funded elsewhere in the bill.

Earlier, the House Appropriations Committee proposed more than $200 million in funding cuts for public broadcasting, including: rescinding $100 million of funds previously appropriated to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the elimination of all funding for the highly successful Ready To Learn Program, the elimination of funding for the digital conversion program – a federal mandate, and the elimination of funding for the satellite interconnection program for programming distribution to local stations.

PTFP in the Senate

On June 21, the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations approved $22 million for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) in FY 2006. In earlier action, the House voted to eliminate funding for PTFP almost entirely. This Senate action is critical to the future of this essential infrastructure program, and sets the stage for a House-Senate conference to decide the final outcome of PTFP in FY 2006.

Affects on MontanaPBS

Over the years, MontanaPBS has received grants from CPB, PTFP and the USDA Rural Utilities Service to make the federally mandated conversion to digital as well as further expand its signal around the state. T he Community Service Grant MontanaPBS receives each year from CPB makes up roughly 30% of the MontanaPBS operating budget.

This budget is used to purchase and produce programs, engage in community events, and cover operational costs. A cut of 25% in CPB’s funding would translate into a loss of $168,680 from these funds.

The e limination of funding for CPB digital and PTFP would be severely hamper MontanaPBS efforts to convert its rural translators to digital -- an essential process as the federal government phases out traditional, analog television.

The loss of Ready to Learn funding would directly impact the educational outreach MontanaPBS provides to teachers, child care providers and children. Also, a reduction in dollars from CPB could directly impact MontanaPBS' ability to purchase and air children's programs like Sesame Street, Arthur and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Because PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) relies on station dues to produce programs, a reduction in funding to CPB (which in turn helps to fund station operations) will directly affect PBS' ability to produce national programs like the Newshour, Masterpiece Theatre, Mystery, and more. MontanaPBS' ability to produce local programs will also be hampered.

Potential Action

Viewers wishing to know more about this can contact Lisa Titus, Development Director, at 406-994-6221 or lisa_titus@montanapbs.org

Viewers wishing to express their support of public broadcasting in Montana can contact Senator Burns: http://burns.senate.gov       Senator Baucus : http://baucus.senate.gov   and Representative Rehberg: http://www.house.gov/rehberg/