What could happen to federal funding for public media and why it matters | St. Louis Public Radio

What could happen to federal funding for public media and why it matters

Mar 16, 2017

Today, the President released a "skinny budget," which recommended defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

The skinny budget is an outline of the administration's discretionary funding priorities. It is not law. Instead, the President's submission of this document to Congress marks the beginning of the annual budget and appropriations process.

Next, Congress will review the President's budget proposal and work to develop its own budget. Congress's budget will establish how much the government can spend and include instructions on how the budget should be used, potentially including guidelines related to public media funding.

Since these budget decisions could have a profound impact on St. Louis Public Radio and all of public radio and television, we’ve created the following primer, put together with the help of our public media colleagues, to answer your questions.

Take action now: Don’t need to read the primer to know you want to speak up about the potential loss of federal funds? You can sign a petition urging Congress to oppose the President's proposed cuts and keep public media funding in its budget.

What is CPB's role in public broadcasting?

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is distinct from both NPR and PBS. It’s not a broadcaster, but a private corporation created by Congress in 1967 with two primary functions: to serve as a firewall between partisan politics and public broadcasting, and to help fund programming, stations and technology.

Why does public broadcasting need federal funding?

Federal funding is essential to the mix that supports public broadcasting. The CPB provides seed money and basic operating support to nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated stations. Each $1 of federal funding leverages $6 from local sources — an inarguably strong return on investment.

Federal funding provides support for public broadcasting’s mission to ensure universal access to high-quality non-commercial programming that educates, informs, enlightens and enriches the public, with a particular focus on the needs of underserved audiences, including children and people of color.

In many rural areas, public broadcasting is the only source of free local, national and international news, public affairs and cultural programming. Loss of federal funding for these stations, many of whom rely on CPB funds for half or more of their budgets, could be catastrophic.

The CPB covers certain costs that benefit ALL public broadcasters – the satellite system, music rights, new program development, and administrative support. Without this support, public radio and TV stations would not be able to create and broadcast the journalism and programming our audience relies on.

CPB’s share of the $4 trillion federal budget is around .01 percent.

What we know today at St. Louis Public Radio

  • Funding for the current fiscal year, FY2017, has already been distributed to the CPB, and payments have been made to stations, including St. Louis Public Radio.
  • The appropriation for the CPB is booked two years in advance, which is designed to provide a buffer between funding and changes in the political climate. Therefore, funding has been budgeted for FY2018 and FY2019, but has not yet been distributed. These appropriations could be rescinded through an Act of Congress.
  • Annual funding for the CPB amounts to about $1.35 per American per year. It has been level for several years.

How much CPB funding does St. Louis Public Radio receive?

This year, about 7% ($527,000) of St. Louis Public Radio’s budgeted revenue will come from the CPB in the form of a Community Service Grant. In addition, the station relies on the CPB for satellite access, music use rights, and other essential resources.   

What would happen if St. Louis Public Radio lost CPB funding?

We would immediately seek to raise the $527,000 from our donors and corporate funders. We would also have to raise a minimum of an additional $350,000 to cover the pro-rated share of the expenses that the CPB currently pays– the satellite system, music rights, and more. If smaller stations are no longer able to pay their share for NPR programs, our cost for programs like Morning Edition and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me could also increase sharply. St. Louis Public Radio could easily see increases of $1 million to $1.5 million (an 18% cost increase).

Where can I learn more? And how can I make myself heard?

A strong, diverse base of grassroots advocates is essential to ensuring the retention of federal funding. A great resource is the Protect My Public Media website. There, you can sign a petition, add your testimony and make sure your voice is heard when congressional hearings on CPB funding take place.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees CPB Funding. If you would like to reach out to Senator Blunt or our other Missouri and Illinois Senators, we have contact information below.

We can all agree that, now more than ever, the reliable, trusted voice of public radio is vital. And now more than ever, it’s essential that every listener contribute as generously as possible. If you’re already a donor - thank you. If not, now is a great time to join and show your support.


Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

260 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-5721

Click to email

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

503 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-6154

Click to email


Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

524 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-2854

Click to email

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

711 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

(202) 224-2152

Click to email