In an effort to rein in federal spending, Donald Trump proposed an budget that slashes $54 billion from numerous federal departments and programs, including the elimination of funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
KUNM, a public radio station that originated on UNM’s campus, faces a $251,825 cut to its budget if Trump’s budget is passed.
The cut represents 12 percent of the station’s $2 million annual budget, which is primarily funded by donors.
“Even though 12 percent does not sound like a big piece of the pie, it’s a fragile pie,” KUNM General Manager Richard Towne said, adding that eliminating CPB funding can cause an “unraveling.”
KUNM utilizes CPB funding to purchase national programing that generates a wider audience and a larger donor pool. He said canceling national programing will subsequently lead to a smaller audience and less donors.
CPB is a private, non-profit corporation that is funded by taxpayers to provide financial support to public media across the nation. In 2016, the corporation received $445 million, five percent of which accounted for administrative purposes, the indicates.
Congress created the corporation in 1962 with the , which sought to “encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational and cultural purposes.”
Republicans have kept the corporation in their crosshairs for defunding since the 1990s, many arguing that it would fare in the marketplace.
“If what we are doing had a viable marketplace, commercial media would be doing it already, and they haven’t,” Towne said. “Public broadcasting is 50 years old this year and there is nothing like it on the commercial dial. The noncommercial band was set up specifically by the federal government for noncommercial educational stations, and that’s what we do.”
Due to New Mexico’s struggling economy, it would not be sustainable for KUNM to continue national programing without CPB funding, Towne said.
He emphasized that noncommercial public media is an essential source of information, adding that public media prizes traditional, unbiased journalism
“In our newsroom and from National Public Radio, we see very traditional journalism,” he said, “which is finding the facts, finding the sources, getting them verified and presenting them in a way that’s balanced for perspectives.”
He assured that KUNM would survive, but indicated that its operations would be diminished.
With transmitters across New Mexico, KUNM’s broadcast reaches over 99,000 listeners a week, according to the . Towne said the cuts would impact their coverage area, negatively impacting rural communities that rely on public media.
Towne admitted that KUNM does not have a strategy to deal with defunding. However, he has been searching for expenses to cut without impacting programs and staffing.
He said KUNM could save money by leaving the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and refusing to purchase audience data from Nielsen.
Nathan Siegel, a UNM student and president of Young Progressives Demanding Action, denounced Trump’s proposal for eliminating funding to programs that constitute a small portion of the federal budget.
“Trump is saving pennies on the dollar,” Siegel said. “He could just defund the military slightly and maintain funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowments for the Humanities and the CPB.”
Siegel also emphasized the importance of public media, describing it as “righteous, fair and an example of media without the desire to drive up rates.”
Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation also released statements denouncing the proposal.
Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a member of the Budget Committee, promised to “push back” against the president’s “misplaced priorities” in a
Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, however, praised the proposal as a “great first step,” according to
“I’m encouraged to see the president uphold his promise to the American taxpayers and take appropriate action to rein in our nation’s growing debt and deficit, getting America back on track towards a stable financial future,” Pearce said.
Michael Aguilar, UNM alumnus and executive director of the Southern Business Alliance, agrees with Trump’s proposal to defund CPB, arguing that it could survive in the marketplace.
He recognized it as beneficial, but argued that it is “not vital to the American people.”
“If those who find NPR to be useful and informative wish to continue its existence, then they should donate to CPB to keep these programs alive, but it should not be another government-funded program,” Aguilar said. “The United States is $20 trillion in debt. It’s time we’re serious about making cuts.”
Andres Del Aguila is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andres_DA95.