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APTS, CPB AND PBS RESPOND TO CUTS TO PTFP AND RUS DIGITAL TRANSITION...

APTS, CPB and PBS Respond to Cuts to PTFP and RUS Digital Transition Grant Program

WASHINGTON—May 26, 2010—The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS disagree with the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB), characterization of two public broadcasting programs essential to the delivery of the highest quality, local public media to communities nationwide as "duplicative and wasteful."

A recent blog post by OMB Director Peter Orszag mistakenly asserts that the Department of Commerce's Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utility Service (RUS) Digital Transition Grant Program are unnecessary because the infrastructure needs they address are "ably supported" by existing CPB mechanisms. In reality, these programs provide essential support that is not provided elsewhere through federal or state appropriations.

For over 40 years, PTFP, a merit-based discretionary grant program, has been the core program for public broadcasting infrastructure. Notably, the program critically serves as the only source of federal funding for stations in the wake of natural or man-made disasters that threaten the ability of public broadcasters to stay on the air to deliver vitally needed services and information to their local communities. In addition, PTFP is the only source of funding that provides a federal match to locally raised funds for ongoing maintenance and upgrades to public broadcasting infrastructure and facilities. On average, public broadcasting stations across the country leverage PTFP funding to locally raise an additional 50 percent of infrastructure and maintenance costs – resulting in a very successful public-private partnership.

Far from being duplicative of CPB's existing grant programs, a significant portion of PTFP funds go toward entities and activities ineligible for CPB support, including organizations building their first station, low-power television and radio stations and nonbroadcast organizations such as school districts and university distance learning projects.

For its part, the RUS Digital Transition Grant Program provides critical funds to ensure that rural communities have continues access to local public television content after the federally mandated DTV conversion. Although stations are now transmitting their primary signal in digital, many stations have yet to raise the resources necessary to fully convert all of their studio and production equipment to digital, which impairs their ability to continue producing quality local programming.

By statute, CPB is required to spend the majority of its funds to assist stations with acquiring and producing the highest quality public broadcast programming. Over the last several years, stations have spent more than four times as much on programming as they receive from CPB. At present, CPB does not have the funding or the mechanisms to support the extensive infrastructure investments that PTFP and the RUS Digital Transition Grant Program currently fund.  

As some of the last locally owned and operated media outlets in this country, the public broadcasting community urges OMB to recognize the needs of the American public who depend on public broadcasting stations nationwide to provide invaluable educational services, emergency alerts, and news and public affairs programming to their local communities.

About APTS
The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) is a nonprofit membership organization established in 1979. The mission of APTS is to conduct – in concert with member stations – advocacy, planning, research and communications activities in order to achieve strong and financially sound noncommercial television and advanced digital services for the American people. APTS provides consistent leadership and information that helps our members better accomplish their own missions and goals. APTS promotes the legislative and regulatory interests of noncommercial television stations at the national level through direct advocacy, and grasstops and grassroots campaigns designed to garner congressional support. For more information, visit www.apts.org.  

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