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Columbia public TV and radio stations fear public broadcasting cuts

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | 5:14 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA – Local public broadcasting stations are worried Congress is about to cut off a major source of their funding.

Columbia’s two public radio stations, KBIA and KOPN, and public television station, KMOS out of Warrensburg, stand to lose thousands of dollars if threats to terminate more than $400 million in federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are successful. The nonprofit corporation gives funds to PBS and NPR stations.

KBIA stands to lose about $200,000, and KOPN could lose between $60,000 and $70,000. KMOS would lose the amount it pays for PBS programming, about $400,000 Mark Pearce, KMOS manager of community and corporate support, said.

The House began debating the issue on Tuesday. Without a federal budget for 2011, Congress must decide what to continue funding and what to cut.

The loss of funding for public broadcasting would negatively affect the public, Mike Dunn, KBIA’s general manager, said. He said radio news and arts programs would suffer, and there would be a significant change in children’s programming.

“Children would be left with programs that are more about entertainment than education,” he said.

Pearce said the elderly would also lose valuable programming because commercial broadcasting tends to target young men and women.

Dunn and KOPN development coordinator Michelle Grant believe the cuts will pass in the House because the Republican majority. They said they hope Democrats will save the funding in the Senate.

If the cuts are successful, Dunn predicted half of public television stations would not survive. He also expected 20 percent of public radio stations to go under as well.

“People are going to lose their jobs,” he said. “This won’t stimulate the economy.”

For KBIA and KOPN, losing public funding means making difficult decisions about employment and the content of their stations. Managers would have to consider reducing their staff and covering less news, Dunn said. Pearce said loss of funding might lead KMOS to drop PBS programming entirely. 

Grant said rural stations would be hurt the most because they rely more on the funding than urban stations. Many would have to go off the air if they couldn’t raise enough money through their listeners alone.

“They could be in serious trouble,” she said.

The House is expected to vote as early as this week. The three stations are urging their audience to call their representatives and express their opinion.

Pearce said six additional bills have been filed that include cutting funding for public broadcasting. Even if this current amendment fails, the issue will come up in the House again, he said.

“It’s a long-lasting concern,” he said.


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