House bill approval may reduce budget for radio programs

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-192 to approve a bill last week that could make it harder for public radio stations to acquire funding for programming. Seven percent of University-operated radio station KUT’s budget comes from federal funding to buy programming from National Public Radio and other entities that produce radio content, said KUT director Stewart Vanderwilt. “What the bill does is that it severely restricts how local stations can use federal funds,” Vanderwilt said. The implications of the bill will be felt mostly at local community radio stations that rely heavily on federal grants to pay for national programming, Vanderwilt said. Programs at risk of being cut in local community stations could include “This American Life” and “A Prairie Home Companion,” he said. “KUT has no plans to drop or replace these programs,” Vanderwilt said. “Some stations, however, may be faced with having to do so.” Vanderwilt said 85 percent of KUT’s funding comes from community members and their support. “We will continue to reach out to our audience and ask them to be part of the funding model that keeps the station going,” he said. NPR released a statement saying the cuts would impact public radio stations across the country and weaken their ability to serve their audience. In a press release, NPR interim CEO Joyce Slocum said a society where entertainment is taking precedence over fact-based reporting, public radio stations are serving their audience with honest and critical analysis of issues. “It would be a tragedy for America to lose this national treasure,” Slocum said in the press release. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said in a speech last week that the bill directly attacks KUT and similar public radios across the country. He said 250,000 Texans rely on KUT’s in-depth news analysis of state and local politics. “The only bias of those who begin with ‘Morning Edition’ is a bias for truth,” Doggett said in the speech. “My constituents tune in to KUT because they want fact-based, not faux-based, Fox-based coverage.” Tyler Norris, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas at UT, said the bill is a step in a positive direction because public radio stations should rely on private-sector funding rather than federal grants to purchase programming. Norris said many private radio music stations rely on consumer ratings and advertisement to fund their operations. “There shouldn’t be any government involvement in [funding] NPR or public television,” the government senior said. “It’s not government’s job to fund entertainment or information services.”