Statement of Patricia de Stacy Harrison, President and CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting Before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Senate Committee on Appropriations
April 19, 2018
Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for allowing me to submit this testimony on behalf of America’s public media service—public television and public radio—on-air, online and in the community. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) requests funding of $455 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, $20 million in FY 2019 for the replacement of the public broadcasting interconnection system and $30 million for the Department of Education’s Ready To Learn program.
Fifty years after passage of the Public Broadcasting Act, this uniquely American public-private partnership continues to keep its promise—to provide high-quality, trusted content that educates, inspires, informs and engages in ways that benefit our civil society. Through the nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public radio and television stations across the country, public media reaches 99 percent of the American people from big cities to small towns and rural communities. At approximately $1.35 per citizen per year, it is one of America’s best infrastructure investments—paying huge dividends in education, public safety and civic leadership for millions of Americans and their families.
The federal investment in public media enables universal access and is indispensable to sustaining the operations and public service mission of local public broadcasting stations. CPB serves as the steward of the federal appropriation, ensuring that 95 cents of every dollar it receives goes to support local stations and the programs and services they offer to their communities; no more than five cents of every dollar goes to the administration of funding programs and overhead.
Education—from early childhood through adult learning—is the heart of our mission. Through public television stations’ broadcast of the PBS 24/7 Kids Channel, 95 percent of all kids age two to eight receive educational content and services that are proven to prepare them for school, especially low-income and underserved children who do not attend or cannot afford pre-school. An excellent example of how public media brings together high-quality educational content with on-the-ground work in local communities is CPB’s work with the Department of Education’s Ready To Learn program. In addition to creating content for broadcast, Web and mobile platforms, local stations work with community partners to extend our high-quality children’s content through engagement with Head Start centers, daycare facilities, local health centers, faith-based organizations and others. No other media organization has both national reach coupled with local deployment of resources specifically charged with serving underserved, low-income and rural communities. In 2015, Congress reaffirmed its strong bipartisan support of Ready To Learn, furthering public media stations’ and producers’ work in connecting STEM and literacy learning experiences for children across multiple platforms and outlets.
Our work does not end with early learning. Through CPB’s “American Graduate” initiative, public media is addressing the crisis of one million young people failing to graduate from high school every year. Since 2011, more than 125 public media stations in 49 states have worked with 1,800 partners to raise awareness, attract mentors for young people and create local solutions for long-term success. Public media, with its unique position as a trusted resource and important partner in local communities, provides an important service helping youth stay on a path to graduation and post-graduation, job opportunities.
This year, American Graduate is addressing the nation’s workforce skills gap. Through CPB support, local stations will partner with businesses, education and workforce related organizations to create content about the state of the workforce, identify job opportunities and skills required to meet local business and industry needs. In addition, we are continuing to work with local stations on behalf of veterans returning to civilian life who are seeking career and job training opportunities. CPB funding makes it possible for public television to operate the largest not-for-profit Graduate Equivalency Diploma program in the country, serving hundreds of thousands of second-chance learners and adult students.
CPB’s investments are guided by our commitment to innovation, diversity and engagement. As good stewards, we are always investing in innovation so that stations can deliver public media programming over multiple media platforms—free of charge and commercial free—available to our audience where, when, and how they choose to access our content. Our commitment to diversity includes geographic, socio-economic, political, ethnic, and cultural—at all levels of public media. Our stations, trusted in the community, also act as conveners, fostering constructive engagement on issues of importance locally and nationally.
Over the past four years CPB, working with public television and radio stations, launched Veteran’s Coming Home, an initiative designed to support veterans’ re-entry into civilian life. Public media recognizes the contribution and sacrifices of the men and women serving in our Armed Forces through content such as "Going to War,” which delivers an intimate look at a soldier’s combat experience and its aftermath told through the stories of veterans of various conflicts, as well as StoryCorps’ Military Voices initiative and the annual Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts broadcast and streamed by PBS to millions.
Public broadcasters have retained the trust of the American people for accurate, balanced, objective, fair, transparent, and thoughtful coverage of news and public affairs—the essential resources for an informed citizenry and the foundation upon which a well-functioning democracy depends. In this disruptive and fragmented media environment, public media’s commitment to serving as a trusted source of information—providing more than a sound bite when it comes to news and fact-based information, as well as a civil place for the exchange of ideas locally and nationally—is more important and relevant to people’s lives than ever.
CPB seeks to increase the capacity of public radio and television stations to create high-quality original and enterprise journalism by supporting collaborations that will establish reporting partnerships between multiple station newsrooms in a state or region. The objectives of these collaborations are to leverage public media’s network of stations to provide a stronger local news service to the public media audience and to increase the flow of locally-produced content of general interest to the signature national programs.
When it comes to public safety, locally owned and operated public media stations are essential partners with public safety officials, schools, businesses and community leaders, providing real-time support in times of crisis. Public media stations broadcast crucial warnings about severe weather, send out AMBER alerts, and through data-casting capabilities, they work with first responders to deploy public media’s infrastructure in a variety of life-saving ways. The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN), a collaboration of 13 public radio stations, provides statewide multimedia updates during hurricanes or other emergencies to stations across the state, their websites, social media channels and on mobile devices via the Florida Storms app. In Houston, Texas, Houston Public Media, through its partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, proved it can deliver secure, encrypted IP data and communications to targeted, multiple emergency responders while continuing its television broadcast service.
Interconnection Infrastructure: Interconnection is the backbone of the public media system, delivering content every day from public media producers to public television and radio stations in communities throughout the country. Without it, there is no nationwide public media service. Recognizing its importance, Congress has always funded public media’s interconnection system; providing a separate, periodic appropriation for interconnection since FY 1991. CPB appreciates Congress’ support of moving the interconnection infrastructure to an annual, ongoing funding cycle. This smaller, annual appropriation allows CPB the agility to contract for incremental upgrades as innovations in technology are realized and costs come down. These efficiencies and technological improvements will advance the public media system and benefit the American people.
Conclusion: CPB’s FY 2021 request of $455 million and FY 2019 requests of $20 million and $30 million for interconnection and Ready To Learn, respectively, provides crucial support to stations – particularly those serving rural, minority and other underserved communities—and enables innovation and technological advances. Federal funding remains an irreplaceable part of the fabric of the national-local, public-private partnership that is the foundation of public media’s success. With your support, CPB will continue to serve as a trusted steward of the federal appropriation; by investing these taxpayer dollars in ways that strengthen the health of our civil society—helping to educate our youth, making Americans more aware of our nation’s challenges and opportunities, connecting to our history and engaging our citizens in their communities. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for allowing me to submit this testimony, and I appreciate your consideration of our funding request.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of nearly 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit www.cpb.org, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe for email updates.