March 16, 2017

WFYI, Arts Council bristle at Trump budget plan that slashes funding

By David Lindquist and Amy Haneline

Public television and radio stations, as well as arts programs, are asking for Hoosiers' help to save federal funding.

Representatives for WFYI Public Media and the Arts Council of Indianapolis are urging supporters to contact lawmakers because President Donald Trump's proposed budget would eliminate federal agencies that provide funding to both organizations.

The federal budget unveiled Thursday would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which assists WFYI Public Media, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which has funded 24 Indianapolis arts organizations since 1999. The two federal agencies are among dozens that would cease to exist under Trump's proposal, which needs approval by Congress to become law.

WFYI President and CEO Lloyd Wright said in a statement that the cut is a misguided attempt to help reduce the federal deficit. The statement notes that the cost of public broadcasting costs citizens $1.35 per year and that the appropriated funds represent 0.01 percent of the federal budget.

The PBS and NPR member station that brings Hoosiers news programs such as "Indiana Week in Review," "Morning Edition," and PBS Kids educational shows receives roughly $1.4 million in federal funding, 13 percent of its annual budgeted revenue. Individuals, local businesses and grants primarily fund the organization.

But losing that revenue would make a significant impact on its operations, the statement said. To make up for the loss, WFYI would have to appeal for more private and corporate support. It is asking the community to help, as well. Citizens need to take the time to let their legislators know how they feel, Wright said in the statement.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting now receives $485 million a year.

The president and CEO of the Arts Council, Dave Lawrence, shared a similar message Thursday.

The organization is working on a "concerted effort" for people to be able to contact elected officials and "let them know the importance of the arts in their lives," he said.

Lawrence said most NEA grants range from $5,000 to $50,000, including a grant to the council in 2015 to fund the initial arts journalism fellowship program at IndyStar.

The largest NEA grant the council received was $250,000 in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package related to the economic recession.

“This funding doesn’t save any of the arts organizations,” he said. “It’s more of a ‘Good Housekeeping seal of approval.’ It shows the community is supportive and that the arts are valued. I think that’s an important message.”

Still, it’s a “fallacy” to count on the private sector to fund what would be missing if the NEA were eliminated, he said.

“Philanthropic giving in the United States is disproportional,” he said. “Rural areas are going to be most affected by this. If (NEA grants) go away, there will be little to no arts funding happening in these rural communities.”

The National Endowment for the Arts now receives $152 million a year.

Trump's budget proposal, dubbed the "America First" budget by the White House, increases defense spending by $54 billion. The offsets to non-defense spending include steep cuts to education, environmental protection, health and human services, and foreign aid. The budget places a heavy emphasis on measurable results, and budget officials say those programs don't make the cut.

USA Today contributed to this story. 

Read the original story here