Mar 17, 2011

With members shying away, House Public Broadcasting caucus collapses

The House bipartisan Public Broadcasting Caucus, formed in April 2001 to educate lawmakers and defend pubcasting from funding attacks, has disbanded — at least for now. It is not registered as a Congressional Member Organization for the current House session, according to this month’s list from the Committee on House Administration, which is required. Co-Chairman Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a founding member, tells Current he is “just letting it go” as he focuses on the current fight for federal support.

“The whole purpose of the caucus was to provide a neutral forum to talk about public broadcasting issues and give people a way to support it,” he said. But given the bitterly partisan funding wars over public broadcasting, “some members feel it’s too awkward for them” to belong, Blumenauer said. “Some have been told confidentially it’s not good for them to be identified with it.”

The latest incarnation of the caucus during the last Congress had 116 members, up from 69 in 2001. But on March 10, one day after NPR President Vivian Schiller resigned in the wake of the video sting controversy, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) — a former co-chair — announced he was dropping out. "As a father of five children, I have been supportive of PBS children's programming in the past," he said in a statement. "However, the recent events involving NPR undermine their claims of objectivity in their reporting. Because NPR has crossed the line to political bias, I will no longer serve on the caucus." An aide to another GOP member, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), told Current he was no longer a member but did not elaborate.

Blumenauer hopes to reconstruct the caucus at some point, he said, but probably not this year.

More in the next issue of Current.

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