With Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States it’s hard to fathom what to expect, not least for public service media.

There is much that could be said about the media and Donald Trump. Whether it’s about their troubled relationship, on the way they have contributed to his rise to power, on the way they mishandled attention and the details or simply failed to communicate to a wide audience. And much has been said about what the media has meant for Donald Trump. But what does Donald Trump mean for the media – in particular, public media – now that he is set to make his way to the Oval office next year?

The answer right now is: uncertainty and a lot of it.

“I frankly don’t know where President-elect Trump comes down on federal funding of public television,” said the CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, Patrick Butler. “I’m not sure how much thought he’s given to this issue.”

What is perhaps a bit more certain is Trump’s stance against the media as a whole. He has in fact labelled the media as ‘crooked’ and ‘dishonest’ on multiple occasions.

Trump has also spoken about freedom of expression in the country. During his electoral campaign, he asked the Congress to “open up our libel laws” giving people the ability to sue media outlets “and make lots of money”. Such laws have caused controversy and deep concern for press freedom in other parts of the world. Only last week we reported on the serious impact of controversial new defamation laws on freedom of expression and the press in the Maldives.


This year the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) received $445 million from the federal government, which is then distributed to local public television and radio stations around the nation.

The CPB’s funding accounts for 0.01% of the overall federal budget and has frequently been the subject of dispute over the years, especially during Reagan’s government when it was substantially cut. Some of the funding goes to both PBS and NPR as programming fees, but the majority of it goes to support operational costs at local stations.

“These funds represent vital operational funds for both public television and public radio stations,” said the CEO of WITF, Kathleen Pavelko.“Unlike funds that we raise from donors or foundations or businesses, it doesn’t have a high cost of fundraising attached.”

There might be some hope left for public media as new Vice President Pence who, as a former governor of Indiana, renewed funding for public broadcasting that had been previously taken away .

“We have good friends and allies and champions on both the Senate and House appropriations committees,” Butler said.

However, whether Trump’s government will continue to administer the funding and support public media is not yet sure. What Trump might mean for public media is still, at the moment, a wave of uncertainty.