PBS SoCal’s public broadcasting station, KOCE-TV (Channel 50), this week will begin airing its new series “Angeleno,” a seven-part documentary effort exploring multicultural Los Angeles.
The series, narrated by Los Angeles Times columnist and broadcaster Patt Morrison, is just the type of locally focused programming most at risk in the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to arts funding. Under the budget proposed by President Donald Trump, $445 million would be eliminated from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, money that is distributed among 350 member stations nationwide.
More than 60 California radio and TV stations and other organizations receive CPB funding, in amounts ranging from $10,000 to almost $4 million. Some grants go to unexpected places: Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory received $3 million last year for documentary programming, according to the CPB.
“When you look back over the history of CPB funding, there have been times when it has been challenged, but this is one of the most significant times we have ever faced,” said Andrew Russell, chief executive of PBS SoCal. “It’s real. It’s important.”
He said defunding CPB would result in PBS SoCal losing between $2.2 million and $3 million a year, 11 percent to 15 percent of its $20 million annual budget. The rest of the public station’s funding comes from individual donations, foundations, corporations, and content distribution fees.
Russell said the impact could go beyond the stations themselves, as many shows produced for or presented by public broadcasting stations might include community and educational initiatives that attract additional CPB funding.
“When those go away, the funding gap is very significant,” he said. “If these cuts were to happen, the PBS system as we know it would collapse.”
CPB oversees the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio and provides funding to other public and PBS-affiliated stations as well. The proposed cuts also would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Besides supporting arts organizations, the NEA sometimes provides funds for arts-related initiatives at public stations.
The mid-March budget announcement sparked outrage from PBS and NPR stations nationwide, including KOCE, which serves a six-county area including Los Angeles County, and Santa Monica radio station KCRW-FM (89.9), among others.
“This is the most serious threat to free and open public media we have faced to date,” KCRW President Jennifer Ferro wrote in an open letter to listeners.
KCRW, an NPR member station, has an annual operating budget of $20 million, with $1.2 million coming from CPB each year.
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