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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

Reprieve for NPR, PBS?

IT'S NOT the first time they've tried it. And the House of Representatives almost got away with dealing a mortal blow to public television and radio stations across the country.

Only a public uproar over action by the House Appropriations Committee, which had voted to cut spending for public broadcasting by nearly half, changed enough minds to make a difference.

But even though the full House restored $100 million cut in committee to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which directs taxpayer dollars to public television and radio, millions more in cuts to remain on the table.

The GOP modus operandi in going after the Public Broadcasting System is familiar to fans of NPR and PBS shows. The partisan bent since even before Newt Gingrich days has been to portray public broadcasting as a hopelessly liberal-leaning system that should not be supported by tax dollars.

In Newt's day Republicans tried to completely cut funding to public broadcasting. They backed down when the public got wind of their plans. A similar controversy erupted during the Reagan era with the administration's efforts to cut domestic spending.

The move by House Republicans to impose severe cuts on public television and radio launched a nationwide campaign to save PBS from its partisan detractors.

It only partly succeeded. The House budget bill still cuts millions in funding for PBS educational programs, for converting to digital programming, and for upgrading the aging satellite technology of the network.

The Senate is the last best chance for restoring that vital support. The proposed cuts would be devastating to public broadcasting stations like Toledo's WGTE.

The station says the loss to its annual budget would almost certainly eliminate its Ready to Learn educational outreach programs for disadvantaged children that has served some 100,000 kids and their families locally over the past 12 years.

Other funding casualties might be staff positions, locally produced programming, and public services as the station is forced to reallocate funds to stay on the air.

The public benefits that could disappear because public broadcasting has once again become a political football will not be duplicated in commercial television. The current assault on one of the last sources for quality television and radio in the country must be stopped before both valued resources become history.

It's up to the Senate.

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