PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger attended the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday, where she spoke about the potential effects of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts for public broadcasting.
Kerger left the crowd with a warning, saying, “I have to assume, as I think all of us in public media assume, that anything can happen. This has been an extraordinary year on so many levels.”
She continued, saying we need to be “vigilant as Congress debates our funding that we don’t assume people remember the impact we have on communities,” before noting, “I take it very seriously.”
Trump’s budget proposal for 2018 was released earlier this year, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was among the 19 bodies slated to be defunded, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Kerger stated that if funding for the CPB goes away, especially for stations in rural areas of the country, “it represents an existential crisis.” In these rural areas, local public stations are sometimes the only options, as Variety points out.
If the CPB is in fact defunded, Kerger noted that PBS won’t be going anywhere, though a number of its stations will.
“If you are a station for whom 30, 40 or 50 percent funding suddenly goes away, there is no way you can make up that money. A big part of the country suddenly will be without public broadcasting,” she said, adding, “There isn’t a plan B for that.”
Kerger told TV critics in the audience that funding was not something Trump has included in his proposal, as Deadline reports. She explained that while the House Appropriations Committee has approved most of PBS’ funding, the House Budget Committee wanted to cut funds. Deadline also reports that, according to Kerger, the Senate has yet to provide an answer, though things will be settled sometime after the August break.
“For all of us in public media, we have linked arms to make an effective case because we know what’s at risk if that funding disappears,” Kerger said.