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PTFP

FUNDING BRIEF: PUBLIC BROADCASTING’S INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS

Public broadcasting stations recently lost the only source of ongoing infrastructure assistance – the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP). For nearly 50 years, PTFP served as the core program for public broadcasting infrastructureensuring public broadcasters were able to provide the highest quality, reliable, universal service to their communities including underserved areas and communities devastated by disasters.

ACTION REQUEST

  • Local public television stations request the restoration of critical infrastructure funds that were provided through PTFP. PTFP was last funded at $20 million in FY 2010.
     
  • Dedicated infrastructure funds are needed to:
    • Ensure communities have continued access to the highest quality public service media including unparalleled educational services and premier public affairs and cultural programming which enhances democracy and the civic engagement of local communities.
       
    • Maintain the critical public safety lifeline stations provide their communities, many of which serve as the only local media outlets and thus the only source of local emergency alert and warning.
       
    • Provide essential start-up funds for communities looking to bring first-time public broadcasting service to their citizens – many of whom reside in rural communities and Native American tribal lands.

BACKGROUND

PTFP was created in 1962 as a means to provide much-needed infrastructure funding to local public broadcasting stations and the communities looking to establish such stations. Since that time, PTFP served as the only source of funding that provided a federal match to locally raised funds for ongoing maintenance and upgrades to public broadcasting infrastructure and facilities.

For nearly 50 years, PTFP protected the American public’s investment in public broadcasting and provided assurances that future generations would have access to quality, noncommercial, public service media and the essential public safety services stations provide. Now that PTFP funding is gone, stations’ growing unfunded infrastructure needs are jeopardizing their ability to continue to provide their communities with the highest-quality public service media.

WHY SHOULD FEDERAL FUNDS SUPPORT PUBLIC BROADCASTING INFRASTRUCTURE?

  • The lack of PTFP funding in recent years has created a significant backlog of much needed infrastructure and capital investments.
    • An extensive study of public television stations nationwide found that there are currently $600 million in much-needed backlogged projects – putting at risk stations’ ability to provide quality, reliable service to their communities.
      • There are needs of over $200 million alone to replace aging towers – with many stations operating towers that are more than 40 years old.
      • Other stations continue to limp along with 20 and 30-year-old electronics that were meant to last 10 years.
      • Federal funding for public broadcasting infrastructure would be critical seed money toward helping stations address these needs
         
    • The infrastructure needs of American’s public broadcasters are not declining. Many stations converted to digital broadcasting 10 or more years ago and the very expensive equipment involved has already passed its life expectancy and needs to be updated.
      • In fact, a recent survey of public television stations found that in the next five years, every public television station in the system faces capital equipment replacement and upgrade needs of at least $1 million, with 50% of stations facing at least $3 million in needed improvements in the next 5 years
         
  • Just as our nation’s highways require maintenance, so does the infrastructure that delivers public service media into nearly every U.S. household.
    • Neglecting needed improvements abandons the investment Congress and American taxpayers have made in the public broadcasting system. Like all infrastructure projects, the costs and risks of no action exponentially rise each year that vital projects are left unfunded.
       
  • PTFP was the only federal program that stations could turn to in the wake of a disaster to provide immediate assistance for restoring infrastructure – allowing stations to get back on the air and provide their communities with life-saving information and services. Without PTFP funding, stations have nowhere to turn when disaster strikes.
     
  • Until its elimination, PTFP continued to provide stations with the only federal source of much needed assistance to establish first-time public broadcasting service, many of which are seeking to serve unserved rural communities and Native American tribal lands.

PTFP RESULTS

  • On average, stations leveraged PTFP funding to locally raise an additional 50% of infrastructure and maintenance costs – resulting in a very successful public-private partnership committed to protecting one of this nation’s most valued resources.
     
  • PTFP funding has ensured that nearly 99% of American households have access to the reliable educational, cultural and public affairs programming as well as lifeline public safety services provided by their local stations.

Public television calls on Congress to restore critical public broadcasting infrastructure funding.


>>>Click here to download this funding brief<<<

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