Public TV and radio stations in Minnesota would take a financial hit if President Trump is successful in eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But for smaller operations, the outcome could be more dire.
“If it goes away, we go away,” said Margaret Rousu, general manager for KKWE-FM, which serves the White Earth Indian Reservation and the surrounding region of northwestern Minnesota. “We’re nothing like National Public Radio or Minnesota Public Radio. We have a 45 percent unemployment rate on our reservation. Half the kids are considered to be living in poverty. We don’t have the kind of money in our community to support us.”
Rousu, who programs everything from animal sounds from a nearby wildlife refuge to pieces honoring tribal leaders, estimates that two-thirds of her budget comes from the CPB.
Minnesota Public Radio, by contrast, gets about 5 percent of its total budget from federal funding. “We are fortunate to have a diverse funding structure, and support from our members remains our most important source of revenue,” said Jen Keavy, MPR’s senior communication manager. “However, all funding sources — including federal funding — are integral to our public service.”
The picture for public TV is similar. In fiscal 2016, Twin Cities Public Television received $3.3 million, or 10.5 percent of its revenue, from CPB and the Public Broadcasting System, which is substantially funded by CPB.
But at Pioneer Public Television, based in Appleton, Minn., federal funding accounts for roughly 30 percent of the budget.
“That money is critical and not replaceable,” said general manager Les Heen.
Molly Phillips, executive director for Iowa Public Television, which reaches parts of southern Minnesota, said a cutoff of federal funding would mean a 17 percent drop in revenue — and lead to a reduction of services as well as the elimination of 25 jobs. “The loss of money would really touch every division, but we wouldn’t go away,” she said. “We’d keep plugging away.”
Some think the debate could be a good thing for public media.
“We’re actually pretty excited, because for the first time ever, public television and radio are united in advancing the message that we are critical,” said Patrick Moore, communications director for Pioneer Public TV. “This is a time to build a stronger relationship with millions. It feels like an excuse to show off our value.”
CPB grants to Minnesota in 2014
|Minnesota Public Radio|
|Twin Cities Public Television|
|KOJB radio||Cass Lake||$145,327|
|WTIP radio||Grand Marais||$133,374|
|KAXE radio||Grand Rapids||$156,365|
|KBFT radio||Nett Lake||$106,923|
|KVSC radio||St. Cloud||$87,274|
|KSRQ radio||Thief River Falls||$96,885|
|* Grant for "system support"|