Donald Trump’s latest attack on the media will unfold in an unusual place: congressional hearings over the national budget.
On Thursday, the president proposed eliminating all federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a main revenue source for hundreds of local NPR and PBS stations across the country.
The cuts, part of Trump’s first federal budget proposal to Congress, would zero out the $445 million annual allocation the CPB receives to underwrite popular programming like Democracy Now!, Fresh Air, Frontline and the PBS Kids lineup, and help keep local public television and radio stations on the air.
The CPB’s $445 million cut amounts to just 0.04 percent of the $1.1 trillion of total annual discretionary spending in the president’s proposal — or approximately $1.35 per person.
Seen through another lens, that $445 million amounts to little more than 2 percent of the total cost of Trump’s proposed Mexican border wall — estimated at $21.6 billion by the Department of Homeland Security.
Groups like the Free Press Action Fund and millions of people across the country will fight to save the CPB. A 2017 poll rated PBS and its 350 member stations as the most-trusted nationally known institution. Survey respondents also rated the federal funding that supports PBS as taxpayer money “well spent.”
Previous Republican attempts to slash the CPB have met overwhelming public opposition as millions of people have called and written their elected representatives in protest.
If the Trump administration thinks it can now push its anti-media agenda past the tens of millions of people who rely on public media every day, it’s in for a surprise. Even before the budget proposal was known, hundreds of thousands of people had written their members of Congress to demand that they stand against any Trump plan to destroy public broadcasting.
Attacks on public media and the quality news programming it presents are to be expected from a president who believes the media is the “enemy of the American people.”
But members of Congress should do themselves a favor and listen to the voices of their constituents instead of cozying up to the administration and its ill-advised plan to silence NPR and PBS.
Public and community media are treasured local institutions that are far more popular than Congress or this president — as they will soon be reminded.