Naked City

Mayor Wynn: Save Public Broadcasting

It was photo-op time Monday morning at City Hall, as Mayor Will Wynn, joined by public broadcasting executives and Clifford the Big Red Dog, announced the formation of Mayors for Public Broadcasting, a nationwide coalition organized to defend public broadcasting from proposed Congressional funding cutbacks. Wynn's effort was joined by the mayors of Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, San Antonio, and El Paso, and they've created a Web site (MayorsForPublicBroadcasting.org) designed to recruit additional municipal officials to petition the Senate (where the cuts are now under consideration) to restore full funding to public broadcasting.

"If these funds are eliminated," said Wynn, "the funding burden will shift entirely to individual stations and communities, and cherished educational programming will be put at risk." Many communities have felt the downward financial pressure from cuts in federal and state programs, Wynn said. "We're here today to try to prevent our local public broadcasting stations from having to undergo that same dynamic."

Among the funds still targeted for elimination are the Ready to Learn children's programming initiative (hence Clifford's appearance) as well as for the (congressionally mandated) transition to digital programming. KLRU's Bill Stotesbury said the children's programming has become crucial to early childhood education and that smaller public stations might be in danger of closing if they can't get federal funds for digital infrastructure. KUT's Stewart Vanderwilt noted that Austin-area listeners match federal funding at a rate of approximately $8 to $1, and that without the federal monies, management would have to make a "Sophie's choice" among the kinds of programming the audience has come to expect.

Asked afterwards whether he's had any success in organizing mayoral support against other aspects of the Bush administration's budget cuts – such as a proposal to cut Community Development Block Grants by roughly 50% – Wynn said that some 300 mayors had weighed in against the cuts, and that about 60 senators ("therefore it's a bipartisan effort") had said they would support restoration of the CDBG grants. "We're hoping to reduce cuts to about 10 or 11%," Wynn said.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Will Wynn, Bill Stotesbury, Stewart Vanderwilt, KLRU, KUT, Community Development Block Grants

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