Topeka The political debate over the role of government — embodied by Big Bird — may be getting some laughs on the campaign trail, but Michael Quade, the general manager of Smoky Hills Public Television, sees nothing humorous in the prospect of ending federal funding to PBS.
“We would have to re-evaluate everything and probably have to do away with a lot of stuff,” said Quade, whose station serves 70 counties from Salina west to Colorado.
In last week’s presidential debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said he would do away with federal funding of PBS. A day later, U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, said the same thing, while her Democratic opponent, Tobias Schlingensiepen, of Topeka, said he would fight for PBS funding with his life.
Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting totals $450 million this year, accounting for about 15 percent of the CPB’s budget. That $450 million appropriation also represents roughly one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the total federal budget.
That money to PBS supplements the budgets of 179 stations nationally. For some of the smaller stations in rural areas, such as Smoky Hills, this subsidy makes up a major portion of budgeting.
Ending federal funding for public broadcasting would wipe out 40 percent of the budget at Smoky Hills, Quade said on Monday.
The station has a number of local productions, such as an agricultural show, high school sports, a Kansas legislative call-in show and others. In addition, the station supplies thousands of books to children in Head Start and conducts early-childhood workshops.
He said whether “Sesame Street,” which features Big Bird, would survive such a cut would probably be decided on the national level. Sesame Workshop, the producers who make “Sesame Street,” have said that while it is not part of PBS, it depends on the stations to distribute its work.
During a debate last week at the Dole Institute of Politics, Jenkins said she didn’t think it was appropriate for the federal government to be adding to the national debt by spending money on PBS.
“Do I want to send my grandkids, that aren’t even born yet, the bill so they can watch PBS? Of course not. This is ridiculous,” she said.
Quade said PBS plays a critical role in society, especially for children. “It’s about educating children in a safe place,” he said. He said if a family is watching PBS “you’re not going to see a commercial pop up that is going to make you blush.”