Confronted with a serious budget crisis, 24 states have substantially scaled back their support for public media in recent years, according to a report released this week by the Free Press organization and SaveTheNews.org.
According to the report, On the Chopping Block, more than 95 percent of public TV stations and 77 percent of public radio stations benefit from some level of fiscal support: either directly from the state government or through a state-funded public institution. But as state budgets began to suffer from falling revenue, those states have eliminated more than $85 million in funding for those media entities since 2008.
Four states -- Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- have completely cut their support for public TV and radio stations. Another five -- Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Maine and South Carolina -- reduced their support by about 50 percent or more. The trend has showed no signs of slowing, according to the report: $30 million of the cuts were approved for fiscal year 2012.
The report was compiled from a review of 24 state budget appropriations from 2008 to the 2011-2012 budget cycle. These states reduced funding to public media by more than 5 percent since 2008; the report argued public media had endured greater cuts than other state agencies. Free Press, which sponsors the SaveTheNews.org website, describes itself as a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to "diverse and independent media ownership...and strong public media."
Free Press was founded by Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor; John Nichols, a contributor to The Nation; and Josh Silver, the current CEO of the Democracy Fund, which says it works to reduce the influence of corporate money in politics.
The map below, courtesy of SaveTheNews.org, highlights the cuts in the 24 states.