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Public Broadcasting Seeks Chunk Of Obama's Stimulus

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Public broadcasters have joined U.S. automakers and the porn industry in asking President-elect Barack Obama for a federal cash infusion. NPR, PBS and the Corporation of Public Broadcasting seek a $550 million "stimulus investment in public media," the trade journal Current reports.

NPR logoOr is it a bailout? In December, NPR announced the layoffs of 64 people, a budget deficit of more than $20 million, and the cancellation of two programs, including "Day to Day." Meanwhile, PBS has long struggled financially, and its flagship news program, "News Hour," is losing money.

Now the public broadcasters have sent a letter (PDF) to the Obama administration, following up on the president-elect's campaign promise to create a "social investment fund network." Quoting from Current's round-up of the letter's requests:


  • The last item in the list amounts to an urgent plea: “Support for station capacity” in a year when pubcasting stations could lose $300 million in revenues according to “preliminary estimates,” putting 1,000 station jobs at risk, the letter said.
  • National Public Lightpath, a proposed “super-high-speed” interconnection of schools, nonprofits and government agencies using lightwaves over optical fiber cables. Construction would create 1,800 jobs for a year plus additional jobs in manufacturing; operation would create 270 permanent jobs.
  • American Archive, which would preserve, index and clear rights for access to “billions of dollars worth” of historically significant public TV and radio programs. The work would create hundreds of jobs, the letters says.
  • A preschool Teach for America program, focused on 100 economically troubled communities, to train teachers and caregivers to use new-media-based educational tools to teach young children how to read. This would create 200 education positions at stations.
  • Building a crisis-response capability in 75 communities and creating about 750 positions, including producers and community-engagement staffers. KETC’s CPB-supported work with the mortgage foreclosure issue in St. Louis, is given as an example.
  • Access 2.0, a campaign to expand media access to new voices, including startup staffing of 30 planned Native American pubradio stations that received FM licenses during the past year. This would create several hundred positions at local public media institutions and several hundred more outside of stations, the letter estimates.

No word on any response from the incoming Obama administration.

This program aired on January 10, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrew Phelps Reporter
Andrew Phelps was formerly a producer and reporter for WBUR.

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