Order Code RS22168
June 22, 2005
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
Federal Funding Facts and Status
Glenn J. McLoughlin
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy
Resources, Science and Industry Division
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, created in 1967, receives approximately
15% of its annual funding from federal appropriations. In turn, the CPB, acting as an
umbrella agency, is required to spend 89 percent of the appropriations in grants to
members of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), National Public Radio (NPR), Public
Radio International (PRI), and other affiliated public television and radio broadcasters.
The CPB has historically received two-year advanced appropriations. On June 9, 2005,
the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related
Agencies of the House Appropriations Committee considered the Labor ,Health and
Human Service and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2006 (H.R. 3010). The
subcommittee voted to reduce CPB’s FY2006 appropriations (which had been passed
as part of the FY2004 appropriations) from $400 million to $300 million. In addition,
the subcommittee voted to eliminate advanced federal appropriations for CPB by
FY2008. On June 16, 2005, the full House Appropriations Committee voted to restore
$400 million in federal funding for CPB in FY2008; it also approved funding of $300
million for FY2006 . (H.Rept. 109-143). This legislation will likely go to the floor of
the House of Representatives either June 23 or June 24. This report will be updated as
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was created out of the Public
Broadcasting Act of 1967 (P.L. 90-129). The CPB was intended to provide a funding
mechanism for individual public broadcasting stations, but not subject these stations to
political influence or favoritism. Therefore, the CPB receives an annual appropriation,
and then uses this money, in addition to foundation, corporate, individual memberships,
and other funding sources, to provide grants to individual public television and radio
broadcast entities . The Public Broadcasting System (PBS), National Public Radio (NPR),
and Public Radio International (PRI) do not receive any direct appropriations from CPB;
all of the appropriated money goes directly to member stations of these organizations.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The number of radio and television public broadcasting stations supported by the
CPB increased from 270 in 1969 to approximately 1,100 as of August 2003, of which 356
are television stations. Public broadcasting stations are mostly run by universities,
nonprofit community associations, and state government agencies.
Public broadcasting is regarded as a public service. To serve most Americans, public
television reaches approximately 99% of the population and public radio, 91%. With
regard to programming, the public broadcasting system observes the principle of local
autonomy. That is, public broadcasting stations make decisions independently of the CPB
as to what programming will be available to their viewing or listening audience as well
as on their programming schedule.1
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The CPB serves as an umbrella organization for public television and radio
broadcasting. The CPB is a nonprofit private corporation and is guided by a 9-member
board of directors (including its president) who are appointed by the President with the
advice and consent of the Senate. The directors serve for staggered six-year terms.
Although its creation as a private nonprofit corporation was motivated by the desire to
eliminate political influence, it is required to make reports to Congress and submit to
audits. The CPB’s principal function is to receive and distribute government
contributions (or federal appropriations) to fund national programs and to support
qualified member radio and television stations based on legislatively mandated formulas.
The bulk of these funds are to provide Community Service Grants (or CSGs) to member
stations that have matching funds. By law, the CPB is authorized to exercise minimum
control of “program content or other activities” of local member stations. The CPB is
prohibited from owning or operating any of the primary facilities used in broadcasting.
In addition, it may not produce, disseminate, or schedule programs. In 2004, W. Kenneth
Tomlinson was named Board Chairman of CPB.
Overall, 14.9% of all public television and radio broadcasting funding comes from
the federal appropriations that CPB distributes. However, among individual members of
PBS, NPR, and PRI, the amount of federal dollars that contributes to a station’s annual
budget depends on the size of that station’s budget, the type of broadcast content
developed or purchased, and the specificity of individual grants awarded to these stations.
Public Broadcasting: PBS
The PBS was created by the CPB in 1969 to operate and manage a national
interconnection (or satellite) system and to provide a distribution channel for national
programs to public television stations. The PBS is owned and operated by the local public
television stations. Although the PBS does not produce programs for its members, it
funds the creation and acquisition of programs for the stations and distributes them
through its satellite program distribution system. The current acting president and CEO
of PBS is Ken Feree, appointed in April 2005.
For data on CPB, see [http://www.cpb.org/about/].
Public Radio: NPR and PRI
For radio, a different division of responsibilities was established. The CPB created
NPR in 1970 as a news-gathering, production, and program-distribution company owned
by its member public radio stations. Unlike its public television counterpart, NPR is
authorized to produce radio programs for its members as well as to provide, acquire, and
distribute radio programming through its satellite program distribution system, with
regional “up-links” available across the nation for public radio stations and other
producers to distribute their programs. Public Radio International (PRI) was created to
provide global broadcast of public radio content. Kevin Klose, former director of the U.S.
International Broadcasting Bureau, the government’s non-military worldwide radio and
television network, is president and CEO of NPR. He was appointed in 1998. Stephen
Saylor is President and CEO of PRI.
Public broadcasting reported total income of $2.3 billion in FY2003 (the most recent
data available). The federal contribution made up about 15% of the system’s total
income. The remaining 85% was raised from non-federal sources (individuals,
businesses, foundations, state and local governments, and educational institutions). The
largest single income source (26% in FY2003) came from membership. Neither PBS nor
NPR receives operating funds from the CPB ; only the local member stations receive these
The CPB received its first federal funding in FY1969 and continued to receive
annual appropriations until FY1975, when the Public Broadcasting Financing Act of 1975
(P.L. 94-192) established authorization for long-term financing. The 1975 Act authorized
funding for public broadcasting over a period of five years. Advanced funding from
Congress now sets actual appropriations two years in advance of stations’ receiving their
funds from the CPB. The CPB was last reauthorized by Congress in 1992 (P.L. 102-356).
The CPB’s appropriation is allocated through a distribution formula established in
its authorizing legislation. The uses of the CPB’s funds are broken down into four
categories: grants to stations; grants for programming; system support; and administrative
operations. Approximately 89% of the funding the CPB receives from the federal
government , and all interest earned from federal funds held by the CPB for distribution,
is required to be disbursed to television and radio broadcasters. Of that amount, about
18% is allocated to program producers in the form of grants, and not less than 5% of the
total appropriation is used for administrative expenses. The remaining percentage of
funds is set aside by the CPB for general system-wide needs that individual stations would
have difficulty funding. A history of appropriations to the CPB is presented in Figure 1
below; the more recent history of appropriations is in Table 1.
Figure 1. CPB Federal Appropriations Trend Line FY1969-2000
($ in millions)
Source: Compiled by the Congressional Research Service from the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting and The Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2006.
Table 1. CPB Federal Appropriations
($ in millions)
a The Bush Administration has requested that the two-year advanced appropriations funding
for CPB end, and therefore has not requested advanced appropriations since 2004.
b The FY2006 House appropriations was set at $400 million in FY2004; $300 million
reflects the most recent action by the House Committee on Appropriations on June 16, 2005.
c The President’s FY2006 budget included a $10 million rescission for CPB’s advance
appropriation of $390 million.
Congressional policymakers are currently addressing the FY2006 federal
appropriations for CPB as well as the future of federal funding for public broadcasting.
On June 9, 2005, the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and
Related Agencies of the House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce CPB’s FY2006
appropriations (which had been passed as part of the FY2004 appropriations) from $400
million to $300 million. In addition, the subcommittee voted to end all federal
appropriations for CPB in FY2006 (Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and
Related Agencies FY2006 Appropriations, H.R. 3010). On June 16, 2005, the full House
Appropriations Committee voted to restore $400 million in federal funding for CPB in
FY2008; it also approved funding of $300 million for FY2006. (H. Report 109-143)
H.R. 3010 will likely be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives is either
Thursday, June 23 or Friday, June 24. There has been no action by the Senate on this
legislation to date. In addition, in both FY2004 and FY2005, Senate appropriators
provided additional funding for CPB to provide conversion of its analog broadcasts to
digital broadcasts; for FY2006, the House appropriators have stated that funding for this
conversion must come out of the CPB’s existing budget.