May 24, 2010

OMB cites $25 million to pubcasting as example of unnecessary spending

Millions of dollars in pubcasting funding through the Commerce Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture was cited Monday (May 24) as an instance of "programs that are heavily earmarked or not merit-based as well as those that are plainly wasteful and duplicative" by the Office of Management and Budget. Director Peter Orszog said in an OMB blog posting that President Barack Obama has sent to Capitol Hill the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010, which Politico describes as "a line-item veto with a twist: The president would have a limited time after a bill is passed to submit a package of rescissions that must be considered by Congress in straight up or down votes." Orszog said the proposed Act "will empower the President and the Congress to eliminate unnecessary spending while discouraging waste in the first place." He noted in his post that Commerce was allocated $20 million and the USDA $5 million to fund public broadcasting, "even though this activity is ably supported through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting." Full text of the President's proposed legislation here.

UPDATE: CPB, PBS and APTS today (May 26) issued a statement in reaction to Orszag's blog posting. The organizations say 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 "provide essential support that is not provided elsewhere through federal or state appropriations." A significant portion of PTPF funds go toward entities and activities ineligible for CPB support, the groups say, such as station and university distance learning projects. The RUS Digital Transition Grant Program provides ongoing resources to rural stations that have yet to fully convert all of their studio and production equipment to digital. "At present," the statement notes, "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."

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