By Kristian Porter

The Public Media Alliance is once again calling on President Donald Trump to drop proposals to slash federal funding for public media.

In what has become an annual battle to secure the future of US public media, the Trump administration has once again announced proposals to cut federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) – the independent organisation that allocates federal funds to public media.

The latest fiscal-year-2021 proposal looks to cut all but $30million from its current annual level of $465million, with an aim to cut funding completely the following year.

If approved by Congress, the bill would have a devastating impact on the sustainability of PBS, NPR and their local member stations, which receive federal grants from CPB.


During a Presidency where the press is frequently described as the “enemy of the people”, it is unsurprising that the Trump administration has chosen to cut a key source of trusted and independent investigative journalism, educational content and services mandated to hold power to account.

Despite only accounting for 15% of the total spend on public media, the cut would force a scramble for funding from less certain sources such as donations, funding drives, programme-by-programme funding and membership fees.

Read more: PBS Statement: Trump Administration Proposes Elimination of Federal Funding for ‘Most Trusted’ Institution

 But most concern lies with local stations where, proportionately, CPB grants can account for as much as 40% of their funding. Such a cut could force many services off-air or to make cuts to essential local programming, with many communities losing their only source of relevant local content and critical emergency alert services. Low-income families could lose valuable educational and cultural content, a specialism of public media in the US.

Moreover, federal funding allows many of these stations to maintain their independence and focus on providing content of public value, rather than struggling to compete for commercial funds.


CPB’s funding has been under threat every year of Trump’s presidency although widespread bi-partisan congressional support has seen off previous attempts to implement cuts. This even lead to an increase in funding in 2020, the first such increase in 10 years.

The proposals are seen as particularly cynical considering that federal funding of public media accounts for just 0.01% of the federal budget – the equivalent of $1.35 per American in 2019. Such value for money is frequently reflected in national surveys where, most recently, PBS and its member stations were ranked no.1 for trust among nationally known institutions for the 17th year in a row.

Read more: Statement from CPB on the President’s FY 2021 Budget Proposal Eliminating Funding for Public Media

But recent rhetoric, a long standing campaign against the press and the rallying of support behind the President has prompted alarm that this year could be different. According to Deadline, Trump publicly questioned NPR’s funding in a tweet following an interview in which Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, lashed out at an NPR reporter.

In response to the proposed cuts, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said: “For 50 years, PBS has served as a trusted source for educational and thought-provoking programming, including school readiness initiatives for children, support for teachers and caregivers, public safety communications and lifelong learning across broadcast and digital platforms.”

What can you do?

Now is not a time for complacency. Public media underpins informed democracy.

The Public Media Alliance condemns the proposed cuts and stands with our members CPB and PBS as well as NPR in calling for congressional support to ensure the continuation of federal funding for public media.

We also join local public media stations and organisations such as Protect My Public Media and Free Press Action in calling for supporters of public media to make their voices heard. This can be as simple as emailing your local lawmaker, signing a petition or contacting your local station to find out more.

CPB and PBS are valued members of the Public Media Alliance


Header image: National Public Radio Headquarters in Washington DC. Credits: Ted Eytan/Creative Commons