State funding for Pennsylvania public broadcasters halted | News | Pittsburgh


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WQED Studios in Oakland, Pittsburgh

Among the few losers in the latest Pennsylvania state budget, passed by lawmakers last month and signed by Governor Tom Wolf, is the Pennsylvania public broadcaster.

that’s a whole $ 40 billion budget Spending more taxpayer dollars on education and violence prevention, saving billions of dollars for the future.

But despite the multibillion-dollar surplus, seven public television and radio stations, including WHYY in Philadelphia, WQED in Pittsburgh and WITF in Harrisburg, cut spending.

They’ve received $ 2.75 million to support state taxpayers since 2016, but this year it’s gone down to zero.

I don’t know why the cut was made or who made the cut. Legislative Republicans say this was in line with Wolf’s demands. An administration spokesperson said Republicans disagreed with the funding.

Funding lines are only part of the government’s spending plan. Journalists affiliated with WITF NPR Efforts garnering national attention Responsible for weakening the 2020 election to Republicans across the state.

But whatever the motive, media experts and the station itself have expressed disappointment with the move.

In a joint statement to Capital Stars, the broadcaster said it spent money during the pandemic, mainly to broadcast children’s TV shows such as Sesame Street and Daniel Tigers Neighborhood.

“I was disappointed that Congress withdrew funding for the Pennsylvania PBS station from the federal budget after providing Pennsylvania with a host of much needed entertainment and educational programs and services at this time.” The statement says.

Funds are available according to the Department of Community Economic Development, which manages the program, “Pennsylvania Public Television Organization for Technical Needs and Operating Expenses.” It has been around since at least 2016.

Over the past three budgets, the station has received $ 750,000. For the previous two, they received $ 250,000.

These funds are distributed among seven federal public television stations scattered throughout the federation, from Erie to Wilkes-Barre, from Philadelphia to State College.

The dollar at stake is only a fraction of the revenues of seven broadcasters (just under one percent). According to the latest financial records, the station grossed $ 86.5 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. According to a spokesperson, the reduction will not affect broadcasters’ hedging operations.

However, according to Victor Picard, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studied journalism and democracy, public funding for American media is currently insufficient and the cuts must be taken seriously.

In fact, the US government Low public media spending Over dozens of countries, from the UK and Finland to Tunisia and Argentina.

Instead of cutting money, lawmakers should increase their commitment to journalism and the media, Picard told Capital Star.

“It is clear that the market cannot support the level of news and information that democracy needs,” he said.

Picard continued that free public broadcasting would be a “last resort option” for news consumers who do not have local newspapers.

They can pay attention to press holes, such as state government reports, left behind when newspapers have been shut down, without making a profit.

This is a type of news that Harrisburg’s WITF-FM works on, which frequently covers Pennsylvania legislative affairs.

The station is also in an editorial position in reporting the efforts of the majority of Republicans to ban the 2020 election result.

Since late January, WITF news activities have added a warning to an article citing a signed state Republican. Letter to Parliament in December 2020 We demand the destruction of the results of the Pennsylvania Electoral College.

“These actions are from President Donald Trump. Lies of Election Fraud Many of his supporters mistakenly believed that the election was stolen, which led to the assault on the United States Capitol, ”the warning said.

In an article written by WITF editors Scott Blanchard and Tim Lambert, the two acknowledged that the policy could be a “rare decision for news agencies”.

“But these are not normal times. As misinformation and fake news spawns on social media and in dinner discussions, reporters are as transparent as they can get and wreak havoc. It is important to adapt to tell the truth, not to remember it. Our democracy over the past three months, ”they wrote. January article.

· Politics hailed by media commentators. However, Pennsylvania Republicans attacked this policy in a broader media criticism.

Steve Misskin, communications director for the Republican Party of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, expressed his displeasure with the WITF’s Jan.6 policy in a tweet last week.

“This is another example of left progressives pushing their tilted agenda through so-called news… they are trying to normalize their version of thinking,” Miskin posted in a WITF notice. Tweeted in response to the user. “These people are as eccentric as tweeters.”

It is nothing new for Republicans to threaten public media funding, Picard said. Republicans in Washington, DC are threatening to cut federal funding for PBS and PBS. Budget deficit and media bias.

Neil Lesser, budget architect and spokesperson for House spending committee chair Stan Sailor (R-York), said the cuts were a response to Wolf’s signal.

“Gov. Wolf recommended that his budget cut technology funding from public television… and we accepted his proposal, ”Lesser said in an email.

Indeed, Wolff has proposed cutting funding for public broadcasting and more than 40 other budget lines, many for niche programs that help everyone from zoos to supercomputers. February Budget …

Historically, the General Assembly has often ignored Wolf’s proposal, especially for most of the small billing information. Lawmakers have restored funding for public media twice in the past four years.

As a result, broadcasters expressed little concern as Wolf’s budget was revealed.

“This is not the first time that I have seen a budget that does not include a general budget for public television,” says CEO Burma Marazzo. Told Current, The outlet for the public media industry at this time. “I don’t think so either.”

When the budget was announced in June, proceeds negotiated between Wolf and the Republican leadership began at $ 474,000 for research and promotion of hardwood. Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and $ 800,000 to support the Pennsylvania Zoo.

However, there was no broadcast funding besides the $ 10,000 allocation to the Electoral College in 2020, as only one of 11 budget lines was completely removed from the budget.

“Usually added by Congress every year, but not this year,” said Lindsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Wolves.

“If the funding for this line had been approved by the state legislature, the governor would have supported it,” she added. “The Wolf administration continues to advocate for funding for public media.”

Predictors warn of a looming budget deficit, but the state still has more than $ 5 billion in reserves for future budget cycles. It is not clear whether funding for public media is a priority as the state seeks to fund schools and social services.

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University who focused on the WITF accountability project, said it might be wise to avoid annual funding from volatile sources like Congress in the current political environment. Said to.

“A loss of $ 750,000 can be painful, but it could be released,” Rosen said in an email. “Now they can’t do this to you anymore.” ”

But Picard said he didn’t expect the debate to go away anytime soon.

As newspaper coverage continues to decline, policymakers will eventually need to find ways to educate informed citizens. The county’s current network of public radio and television stations seemed like an ideal starting point.

But looking to the future, he warned that media funding would be “another political football”.

“It’s one of the last things we want in public goods, like public broadcasting,” Pickard says.

Stephen Caruso is a Pennsylvania Capital Star reporter, where this story first appeared.

State funding for Pennsylvania public broadcasters halted | News | Pittsburgh

Source Link State Funding for Pennsylvania Public Broadcasters Halted | News | Pittsburgh

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