If Congress were to zero-out federal appropriations to public broadcasting, 54 public television stations in 19 states and 76 pubradio stations in 38 states would be at "high risk" of shutting down, CPB reported in "Alternative Sources of Funding for Public Broadcasting Stations," a comprehensive revenue analysis produced by Booz & Company and delivered to Capitol Hill today (June 20).
Lawmakers requested the research paper in December 2011 when they approved CPB's fiscal 2014 advance appropriation for $445 million.
The report identifies five new or alternative funding options for public media — TV advertising, radio advertising, retransmission consent fees, paid digital subscriptions and digital game publishing — but says none of these offer "a realistic opportunity to generate significant positive net revenue that could replace the current amount of federal funding that CPB receives."
"A shift from a noncommercial model to a commercial advertising model," the report says, "would have dramatically negative consequences for many of the communities that public broadcasters serve. In the absence of federal funding, there are small urban stations, small-market stations, rural stations and stations that serve diverse communities that will likely fail because they do not have the capacity to either shift to a commercial model or raise the revenue to replace the loss of CPB funding."
The analysis predicts a domino effect of systemic collapse if Congress were to cut off the flow of federal aid to local stations. As at risk stations go dark, "a cascading debilitating effect" will spread to remaining stations and the national programming services provided by PBS and NPR. "At bottom, the loss of federal support for public broadcasting risks the collapse of the system itself," the report says.
Even upcoming broadcast spectrum auctions aren't a viable source of support, the report says, because the money would flow "on a one-time basis and only to television stations willing to give up their channels." Even if proceeds could be placed in an endowment fund for the system, "they would not be sufficient to provide an ongoing source of funding for public television and radio stations that could replace the federal appropriation."
A link to the entire document is available here.