Republicans Reduce Size Of Public Broadcasting Cut

Board That Oversees WPR, WPT Now Faces About $2.3M In Cuts

Courtesy of Wisconsin State Legislature

The Legislature’s budget committee voted Tuesday to reduce the size of public broadcasting funding cuts that were proposed under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget.

Walker’s original proposal was to cut $5 million in funding to the Educational Communications Board, the agency that oversees Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television stations. However, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee approved a motion to reduce the size of the cuts, specifically restoring funding for Amber and emergency alert services. The funding reduction now amounts to $2.35 million.

Many of the lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed support for programming on WPT and WPR. Republican Sen. Luther Olsen, who led the move to reduce the size of the cuts, professed that he was especially fond of the popular British TV show “Downton Abbey,” which airs on WPT.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“Public radio and public TV is one of the great assets of the state of Wisconsin,” said Olsen.

Democratic Sen. Chris Taylor, however, was skeptical of Republicans who expressed fondness for public media programming.

“You can say you love it, but I don’t believe it if you’re cutting it,” she said.

Taylor also said the cut approved by Republicans was still too big for public broadcasting to make up on its own.

Hudson Republican Rep. Dean Knudson disagreed. He said he’s a public radio listener, but thinks that Wisconsin’s state funding for public broadcasting needs to be more in line with other states. He cited a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis, saying that public broadcasters in Wisconsin get 40 percent of their funding from the state, compared to a national average of 20 percent.

“They very much need to increase the private fundraising,” he said.

Democrats put forward a motion to fully restore the ECB’s funding, but it was rejected down party lines.

Editor’s Note: As noted in this story, Wisconsin Public Radio is a service of the Educational Communications Board.