Public stations brace for federal funding cut | AspenTimes.com

Public stations brace for federal funding cut

Janet Urquhart

Local public radio stations and National Public Radio officials who convened in Aspen for the weekend are bracing for a federal budget cutback that would slash broadcast funding, hitting stations like KAJX in Aspen and KDNK in Carbondale.An appropriations bill that could make it to the House floor as early as today would trim $182 million in federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public radio and television stations.A growing federal deficit has Congress looking to hold down spending for a host of domestic programs, but the depth of the cut to public broadcasting that came out of the House Appropriations Subcommittee caught broadcasters by surprise.If the full cut is enacted, it would mean a $47,645 drop in funding for KAJX Aspen Public Radio – or 45.5 percent – in the federal fiscal year that begins in October, according to Brent Gardner-Smith, the station’s executive director.”To put that into context, that’s 9 percent of our budget and almost what we have historically raised during a fund drive. It could mean that we either have to cut programs or staff, although we’re going to do everything we can to avoid that,” he said.At full funding, KAJX was looking at a projected $104,547 in grant money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in fiscal 2006, some of which is earmarked for contracting with a national news service – National Public Radio in the case of KAJX and most other public radio stations.KDNK was in line for $67,307 at full funding, but $36,989 at the reduced level, according to NPR.Shawna Claiborne, general manager at KDNK, could not be reached for comment Monday.Although National Public Radio won’t be directly impacted by the proposed budget cut, this week’s activities on Capitol Hill received plenty of discussion as the NPR Foundation’s board of trustees and other key supporters gathered for four days of meetings that wrapped up Monday at The Aspen Institute.”It will have an adverse effect on KAJX and by extension, it has an adverse effect on us,” said Kevin Klose, CEO and president of NPR. “The question is, looking forward into the next years, can we be sure that this won’t come up again, and the answer is, we don’t know.”NPR is urging station managers who can to travel to Washington, D.C., this week and lobby their congressional representatives for reinstatement of the funding.Reinstituting the allocation to public broadcasting, however, means deeper cuts elsewhere. The advocates of any program facing cutbacks will be fighting for their cause, Klose acknowledged.Gardner-Smith said he isn’t likely to make the trip. “It’s an unbudgeted expense and my budget’s being cut,” he said.In response, KAJX is upping the goal for its fund-raiser later this summer to $90,000 – its most ambitious target ever. The station raised about $70,000 in its winter campaign last February. Its total 2005 budget is about $550,000.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com