POLICY BRIEF: ADVANCE FUNDING - A CORNERSTONE OF FEDERAL FUNDING
For almost 40 years, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, has received two-year advance appropriations, distributed directly to local public broadcasting stations, establishing a firewall that insulates programming decisions from political influence, enables the leveraging of funds to ensure a successful public-private partnership, and provides stations with the necessary lead time to plan and produce in-depth educational programming conforming with State standards.
- Local public broadcasting stations request the continuation of the two-year advance appropriation for CPB.
Congress began considering advance funding models for CPB in 1975. President Gerald Ford originally proposed a five-year advance, but through a bipartisan compromise with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, a two-year cycle was enacted in 1976. This longstanding practice recognizes the unique nature of public broadcasting, and allows local stations to.
- Ensure programming decisions are free from political pressure.
- Maximize fundraising efforts– leveraging the promise of federal dollars for local impact.
- Have the critical lead time needed to plan and produce high-quality educational programs and resources; create thoughtful programming that engages citizens and strengthens our democracy; and develop educational partnerships with schools and colleges and public safety partnerships with first responders.
WHY IS THE TWO-YEAR ADVANCE APPROPRIATION FOR CPB IMPORTANT?
Two-year advance funding provides a crucial separation between editorial decisions at the station level and federal funding. Without this separation, the funding of independent entities that produce and broadcast speech protected under the First Amendment would be much more vulnerable to those who disagree with programming or scheduling decisions.
- Public television’s history of editorial independence has paid off in unprecedented levels of public trust– for the 11th consecutive year, the American people have ranked public broadcasting as the most trusted national institution, and the best use of taxpayer dollars, second only to military defense. Advance funding and the firewall it provides are vital to maintaining this credibility among the American public.
Advance funding enables local public broadcasting stations to leverage the promise of federal funds to raise state, local and private funds. On average, local stations receive 15% of their budgets through the Community Service Grants (CSGs) allocated through the CPB account. However, small and more rural stations rely on federal funding for 30% or more of their budgets. These federal funds act as essential seed money for fundraising efforts at every station, no matter its size.
The two-year advance funding provides local stations with critical lead time to incorporate the appropriated funding into their budgets, and use it to gain additional support in the State budgeting process.
With the two-year advance, FY 2017 federal funding for public broadcasting is decided in FY 2015. This is important because at the State level, funding decisions for public broadcasting stations for FY 2017 are made as part of the FY 2016 process. And some States operate under biennial budgets.
For local stations, knowing what federal funding they will receive two years in advance is essential for the station to provide the most accurate and compelling State budget request and effectively leverage the federal funding to secure additional State funding.
- With the two-year advance, FY 2017 federal funding for public broadcasting is decided in FY 2015. This is important because at the State level, funding decisions for public broadcasting stations for FY 2017 are made as part of the FY 2016 process. And some States operate under biennial budgets.
The two-year advance funding also enables stations to leverage federal funding to raise additional contributions from individuals and businesses at the local level.
Local stations are able to leverage each $1 of federal funding to raise over $6 from other sources.
Two-year advance funding provides stations’ community partners, many of which are nonprofit themselves, with the confidence to invest in projects and initiatives because they know the station has the federal funding to follow through on the project.
Since two-year advance funding was implemented, the proportion of a station’s budget that is derived from the federal government has dropped significantly, replaced by local dollars. But the federal investment remains essential seed money.
- Local stations are able to leverage each $1 of federal funding to raise over $6 from other sources.
- The two-year advance funding is a key component of the very successful public-private partnership that enables local public broadcasting stations to provide unparalleled resources to their communities.
Advance funding affords public television stations the lead-in time necessary for developing and producing quality programming and partnerships. Without the certainty provided by advance funding, stations would be unable to plan, develop or finance new projects.
The signature series that demonstrates the depth and breadth of public television frequently take several years to produce. For example, Ken Burns’ The Civil War and Henry Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize were produced over several years. The fact that stations know they will have funding to support projects like these in advance is critical for producers to be able to actively develop groundbreaking projects that include significant standards-based educational components.
In addition to national programming, two-year advance funding is essential to stations’ creation of local programming. These local resources are created through a cycle that frequently encompasses multiple fiscal years as stations convene the community to identify needs, recruit partners, conduct research, develop content and deliver services.
The two-year advance funding is also essential for stations as they create new partnerships and collaborations to enhance services for their communities.
Stations are partnering with local first responders to support public safety and emergency communications activities; advance funding gives first responders confidence in the future of these partnerships.
States and local governments are also collaborating with stations to provide citizens with access to C-SPAN style coverage of State and local governments. These types of complex projects benefit from stations’ advance knowledge of their federal funding levels.
The advance provides stations with necessary lead-in time to partner with schools and colleges to provide educators with critical classroom and professional resources.
- The two-year advance funding is essential for stations as they continue to plan the production of the unparalleled programming and local services that educate, inspire, inform and entertain the American people in the unique way only public broadcasting can.
For all of these reasons, the two-year advance funding model is an essential part of ensuring that local public broadcasting stations are stable and fiscally healthy so they can continue to provide quality, universally accessible programming and services that reaches nearly 99% of American households.