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End of State-Funded Public Broadcasting In Florida: State Board Blanks PBS Dollars

| August 24, 2011

PBS funding eliminated in Florida: The winter of Big Bird's discontent, compliments of Florida.

The winter of Big Bird's discontent, compliments of Florida.

The State Board of Education approved a legislative wish list Tuesday that excluded any money for public broadcasting, throwing the future of state-funded public broadcasting into question.

This budget request keeps the board in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s veto in May of $4.8 million the Legislature had approved for public broadcasting.

That marked the first time in more than 35 years the state did not provide funding for public broadcasting.

An effort by board member A.K. Desai to re-install the funding failed after the six other board members rejected the idea. Board members are appointed by Scott. Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson also sits on the board.

“What do they do for education?” asked Board Chair Kathleen Shanahan. After hearing an explanation from Desai, Shanahan said it wasn’t one of the board’s priorities.

Public broadcasting falls under the purview of the Department of Education because it provides educational opportunities for children, in the form of the popular Sesame Street television show, for instance.

Florida has 26 public broadcasting stations, half of which are television stations and half of which are radio stations. They operate on a mixture of listener donations, federal and state dollars and corporate donations.

Typically, public broadcasting stations do not have commercials and offer programming that is intended to educate and promote public discourse, such as National Public Radio news radio updates.

But public broadcasting has lately become a target for some conservative lawmakers and governors because of its perceived liberal bent and the contention that it should not be supported with state or federal funds.

“My impression is that this is a political move by the governor that is unjustified,” said Rick Schneider, the president of WPBT2 in Miami, a public television station. He is also the chairman of the Florida Public Broadcasting Service, but stressed his opinion on Scott did not represent the organization.

Schneider called Scott’s veto in May a “serious blow” to Florida’s public broadcasting stations.

“Florida public broadcasting stations have received an appropriation for more than 35 years,” Schneider said. “This is the end of a longstanding partnership with the state and the Department of Education. We hope it is not ended for good.”

Some stations have been hit hard by the cuts that went into effect in July. Because each station received a similar amount, the smaller stations were impacted the most.

“The effect is that stations have a substantially smaller amount of money to deal with,” Schneider said. “And that means different things in different communities but it ranges from severe to catastrophic.”

At WJCT Public Broadcasting in Jacksonville, President and CEO Michael Boylan said he is telling fans of the television and radio stations that the cuts will have an impact on programming, and urging their support.

Boylan said the cut – roughly $500,000 – amounted to nine percent of his operating budget.

“That comes on the heels of four to five years of declining revenues because of the economy in general,” Boylan said. “This is not something we can absorb.”

At least one station, WDSC in Daytona Beach, no longer offers PBS broadcasting because of Scott’s veto, while others have had to undergo layoffs or slash programs, said public broadcasting station executives.

Schneider said he is hopeful the many Republican and Democratic lawmakers that support public broadcasting will work to restore funding. But even if the Legislature restores the funding, Scott could veto it again.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, who chairs the education appropriations committee in the Senate, said he did not agree with the direction the State Board of Education is taking.

“I do not approve of it, however I do respect their position as well as the governor’s position in this, given the difficult economic times that we have,” Simmons said. “It will be a matter that will be thoroughly debated in the Senate and in my committee,” adding that it is “not a dead issue.”

He said the purported liberal bias of public broadcasting has never been in a factor in his support for providing state funds for public broadcasting. “Education funding for public broadcasting, at least from my perspective, deals with the benefit of education programs for the youth,” Simmons said. “That is the reason I have supported it.”

The State Board of Education did recommend preserving funding for the Florida Channel, which was shielded from a veto and did not undergo substantial cuts this year.

The legislative budget request includes $2.6 million to operate the Florida Channel, which broadcasts public meetings and legislative proceedings, and $265,910 for Florida Channel “space and equipment.”

Meanwhile, public broadcasting stations say they need to do a better job of educating Floridians and lawmakers as to what they do.

“The culture now is ‘what is the return for the tax dollar we are spending,’ ” Boylan said. “We need to have more education within the Department and other partners and say ‘this is a valuable asset.’ ”

–Lilly Rockwell, News Service of Florida

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14 Responses for “End of State-Funded Public Broadcasting In Florida: State Board Blanks PBS Dollars”

  1. revenge of the nerds says:

    Praise the lord

  2. PatheticFlorida says:

    One more way Flori-“duh” is falling to the bottom of the cultural and intellectual pile. These tea-part ultraconservative want all other source of information shut down because they can’t stand the any other point of view than their own views that are stuck in the 1950’s. They want everybody dumb and dim witted as they are. How many more jobs will this add to the unemployment rate in Flori-“duh”. I wonder if Big Bird can file for unemployment or if the bank will foreclose on Oscar the Grouch’s trash can.

  3. NortonSmitty says:

    We don’t need those smart-talking Yankees down here usin’ big word to fill our heads with those damn ideas! If I need to know something, I’m sure my preacher or Fox news will tell me.

  4. Jack says:

    @Norton: If there was an option to ‘like’ your comment I would.

  5. I love Florida says:

    Those TV stations can sell ads and run there business like everybody else. The words “State Funded” scares me anyway. Less goverment makes the world a better place.

  6. Becky Cov says:

    Where does all the profit go from Sesame Street Merchandise?
    Who owns the rights to the names of the characters, etc.
    Should it be sown back into the network or back into the treasury
    to pay back the taxpayers.Though the programs for children
    are entertaining, and somewhat educational, I don’t believe the costs
    can be validated by actual educational results. It does offer a somewhat
    Positive view of life for children who have no parental role models.

  7. Sad times says:

    Well….it seems that the governor and his followers are determined to kill education altogether in Florida…. the state is almost at the bottom of the “education rung” (as shown on earlier articles) …. and it appears that our leaders are working hard to ensure that “the people” remain ignorant… no money for schools (hey, I thought the lottery monies were earmarked for education!)…. and now no money for pubic education on TV.

    My goodness, “I love Florida”… your words show you do not love the people of Florida… you seem to want to keep the people ignorant! I just wonder why?!!

  8. palmcoaster says:

    @ I love Florida …with your suggestion then we will not have the high quality reporting that we have in stations like NPR 89.1 without abusive loooong advertising. This Gainesville Florida NPR station is “a fine tune cultural instrument ” to listen in my car radio. I learn in that station all the news that your never will be able to hear about ever, thru the blanketed mayor media tv and printed media outlets. Next time you seat in your car tune 89.1 NPR and you will find out a myriad of amazing detailed news and data as well as you will learn about history, geography science in all aspects, that influence our human lives in a daily basis.
    Live interviews from cultural, political,scientific and educational personalities as well as life experiences of our average fellow Americans. After you listen NPR 89.1 without almost no advertisement interruptions, you may not care to go back to endure the long ads tirade in your TV set again. This is why I resent our governor cutting the 9 percent of funding to our Public Broadcastings…instead they should end this BS tax exemptions for all the cruise lines that we are forced to fund in (Miami, Everglades, Canaveral etc) their base ports infrastructure for their billionaire profits.
    Also plenty of lobbying to get cheaper power rates for these cruise lines, that we tax payers are not entitled to, so they won’t pollute our coasts…?
    Comprehensive reporting in the pathetic low taxes paid by corporate giants in our USA next:
    Make your own conclusions after reading the above. We really need to wise up and smell the foul and demand fairness for us, the people..

  9. Kevin says:

    If they would demonstrate less political bias and basically report more factually, issues regarding their funding wouldn’t have materialized. They certainly haven’t maintained a fair and balanced approach when it comes to politics and their programming. Au revoir!

  10. Kevin says:

    Yeah, Norton Smitty made such a delightful comment impugning Floridians and basically Southerners, something he seems to enjoy doing since that isn’t the first comment he has made as such –to him and Jack, everyone knows that people up north are so much more smarter than people in the south. Pat each other on the backs for being so smart and funny.

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    Kevin, I have nothing against Southerners. I just hate stupid.. When was the last time you listened to NPR to come up with your astute critique of their supposed bias? I’m going to guess never, but you heard about it on Fox. Pretty dumb.

    “I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your critique in front of me. It will soon be behind me.” George Bernard Shaw.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Kevin I moved to Florida because I always loved the laid back life in Dixie and its Southerners as much as I love my NPR 89.1 and PBS, boiled peanuts and the warm, clear waters in our beautiful sandy beaches. Hope this governor stops trying to destroy all that while you defend him so much and he is behaving nothing like a Southerner, but instead a real Notherner borned in Illinois. What I consider a very
    detrimental invading species to our Floridian natural environment.

  13. rickg says:

    Cutting funding for PBS and NPR is a giant step backwards for those who would like informative and interesting dialogue. I would like for those who continually describe both of those networks as liberal to please, please show me where any progressive voices are heard. And don’t tell me its Ernie and Bert. All of you tea baggers needed to listen in government and civics classes in school. It may too late for you now but don’t deprive today’s kids of learning how government should and can work. This state is getting to be so depressing.

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