Facts About Maine Public's Federal Funding

Federal Funding Update from Maine Public CEO Mark Vogelzang

February, 2020

The Trump Administration has proposed a federal budget that would almost totally defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). This has happened in previous years, and yet Congress was able to look past the President’s recommendations and actually provide a solid increase to public broadcasting’s funding in the next two fiscal years. Maine Public receives proportional grants for TV & radio from CPB that total over $1.6 million or 11% of our $14 million annual operating budget this year. This is separate from the State of Maine.

Recently, you may have seen an article about public radio in the New York Times: “Unloved by Trump, NPR Carries On.” The headline in the print edition was, “NPR, Under Attack by Trump, is Taking the Threat Seriously.” Reporter Rachel Abrams interviewed a number of public radio station managers who operate like we do, at KMUW in Wichita, at KPCC in Los Angeles, and the NPR Board Chair, Paul Haaga. It reflects on the Mary Louise Kelley-Secretary of State Pompeo interview and the additional pledges of dollars and calls we received during our recent radio pledge drive.

This month, we will be in DC for an annual information-sharing conference and to talk in person with our delegation from Maine – Chellie Pingree, Jared Golden, Angus King, Susan Collins – all of whom support federal funding and appreciate our work at Maine Public! We will share updates with them and their staff about all the terrific things that Maine Public is doing, the importance of CPB funds that help pay for our NPR and PBS content, but even more, funds that support our public safety role as the primary station for Maine’s emergency broadcast system, our education work, and the civic leadership from Maine Public’s crucial content that connects us all.

I want you to know that we take this seriously. During this election year it will likely become a political issue, and the debate about funding public broadcasting may intensify. That means our visits and meetings on Capitol Hill this month will be crucial along with the vocal and financial support of our fans in Maine. If you want to be more directly supportive, you can share this link: Protect my Public Media, and read on for more information.

Here's why proposals to eliminate federal funding threaten local stations like Maine Public:

  • Studies confirm there is no replacement for federal funding.
  • If federal funding is eliminated, local stations could be forced off-air or to cut valued programs or services.
  • Rural communities could lose their only source of local media.
  • Low-income families with preschool age children could lose their children's only source of educational media.

Here's what you should know:

  • Public media funding amounts to about $1.35 per American.
  • Public media funding represents roughly .01% of the federal budget.
  • Cutting public media funding would have no impact on the federal deficit, but would destroy the public media system.

Soon, Congress will consider the President's budget and make funding decisions for federal programs, including public media funding.

What can I do today?
Get involved! A strong, diverse base of grassroots advocates is essential to ensuring the retention of federal funding. You can contact your lawmakers through the Protect My Public Media campaign, which has user-friendly outreach tools. While there, subscribe to their newsletter keeping you informed on what's going on and ways that you can help protect Maine Public and local stations across the United States.

Write a "thank you" note! We are very fortunate here in Maine to have strong support from our United States Senators and Representatives. We encourage you to reach out to our Maine delegation in Congress and thank them for their ongoing support of Maine Public and their commitment to funding for CPB in the Federal Budget.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins
U.S. Senator Angus King
U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree
U.S. Representative Jared Golden

America's Public Television Stations (APTS) recently recognized Senator Susan Collins as a “Champion of Public Broadcasting. Pictured (left to right) Maine Public CEO Mark Vogelzang, Ron Bancroft, Maine Public's Board Chair, Senator Susan Collins, Maine Public VP Clare Hannan, and Pat Butler, President and CEO of APTS.

Where can I learn more?
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 and we encourage you to take a few moments and see how you might become involved. Protect My Public Media is an action network of Americans who are dedicated to protecting local public television and radio stations and the programming and services they provide. Protect My Public Media directs audiences to take action to protect the federal investment in public media. 

How does federal funding work?
Federal funding supports specific programs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Interconnection and Ready To Learn, that enable Maine Public to deliver high-quality non-commercial programs and services that you can’t find anywhere else. You can learn more about Interconnection and Ready To Learn on the Protect My Public Media website. 

What is CPB's role in public broadcasting?
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is distinct from both NPR and PBS. It is 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 CPB receives federal funding from Congress two years in advance, per the Public Broadcasting Act. Once received, CPB distributes funding based on a formula that is set in law.

The majority of funding (71%) is sent directly to public radio and television stations. Public media stations use funds received from CPB to:

  • Produce local programming
  • Provide community services in news, education, public safety and more
  • Purchase broadcast equipment
  • Acquire programming

The remainder of federal funding is divided accordingly:

  • 18% is invested in the creation of the programming you enjoy and depend on
  • 6% is spent on system wide support including research, copyright fees and national initiatives
  • 5% or less covers CPB's operations

Why does public broadcasting need federal funding?
Federal funding is essential to the funding mix that supports public broadcasting. CPB funding provides critical seed money and basic operating support to local stations, which then leverage each $1 of federal funding to raise approximately $6 from local sources — a strong return on the taxpayer investment.

Federal funding provides essential 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 under-served 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 – and with such small populations they often rely more heavily on federal funding. Without it, these stations would likely be unable to continue to provide local communities with news, information, cultural and educational programming that they currently provide, and could even go off the air altogether.

In addition, the CPB helps negotiate music rights for all public stations and provides administrative support, allowing stations to aggregate together for cost-effective sharing of information, research and services.

What we know today here at Maine Public
The federal appropriation for CPB is approved two years in advance which is designed to provide a buffer between funding and partisan politics. 

Public broadcasting’s requests for FY2020 include:

  • $495 million for CPB for FY2022
  • $20 million for Interconnection
  • $30 million for Ready to Learn.

Robbie Feinberg, Susan Sharon and Patty Wight show where they stand on supporting Maine Public.

How much CPB funding does Maine Public receive?
This year, approximately 11% of Maine Public’s operational revenues will come from the CPB, about $1,607,650.  Maine Public’s total operating budget for FY20 is  $14,069,650 , 51% of which comes from membership and donor support.

What would happen if Maine Public lost CPB funding?
At Maine Public, we feel it's important to receive funding from many diverse sources, including individual listeners, local businesses, foundations and the CPB. Losing CPB funds would have a noticeable effect on our ability to serve the community with local news and music programming.