The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled its first federal budget plan, and one of its proposals was to eliminate public arts funding agencies the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
CPB, often a target of proposed Republican cuts, provides revenue for both the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR), as well as for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The proposed elimination of federal funding for these agencies “begins the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service,” said Patricia Harrison, CPB’s president and CEO in a statement. [It] “would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions – all for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”
Critics immediately spoke against the proposal, which has a long way to travel before becoming reality. The administration’s budget serves as a suggestion to Congress, which ultimately writes and confirms the federal budget.
“White House budget plans are largely political documents that telegraph a president’s priorities,” wrote the New York Times.
Considering President Donald Trump’s many speeches on the issue of government spending, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that funding for the arts is not among his top priorities. That said, no president has ever called for ending the NEA or the NEH, both of which were founded by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
The combined budgets for both endowments is $300 million, a small part of the total $1.1 trillion the federal government spends annually in discretionary spending, according to the Times. CPB’s appropriation is about $445 million.
“PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” said Paula Kerger, PBS’ president and CEO, in a statement.
The “cost of public broadcasting is small, only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse,” she said.
The bulk of CPB’s funding goes to public broadcast TV stations, reported Variety.
Three Hollywood guilds — the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild America East and West — immediately issued a joint statement:
“As a source of inspiration, action and economic growth our country’s creative arts are integral to our culture, our American identity and our democracy,” read the statement. “Access to the arts has fueled generations of great Americans, uplifted communities and helped heal our nation’s greatest divides. Cutting federal support of these programs will not only hurt artists and those who benefit from their work, it will also send a damaging message to future generations about the power of art and its place in our culture.”
READ MORE: The New York Times, Variety, The Wrap