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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting--Providing Independent Family Programming

Location: Washington, DC


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its contributions to our shared American experience.

On November 7, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and bringing about the genesis of one of our Nation's most cherished educational and cultural institutions.

Before signing the bill, President Johnson presented his vision for this new public communications enterprise, stating that the ``time had come to enlist the computer and the satellite, as well as the television and the radio, and to enlist them in the cause of education.''

Since Congress created this not-for-profit entity, it has become one of the most relied-upon sources of news and educational programming for all Americans, especially for our children.

Mr. Speaker, as the father of two small children, I can speak directly to the love that our kids have for educational programming, such as Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Arthur, Clifford the Big Red Dog. They have captured the imaginations and challenged the minds of our children for decades. In fact, these programs are also a hit with parents, and often present the only alternative to inappropriate daytime programming that is available on network and for-profit television stations.

The mission of the Public Broadcasting Act was realized when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, CPB, created the nonprofit Public Broadcasting Service in 1969 and the National Public Radio in 1970. American families now had television and radio stations they could call their own.

Much like the Chamber in which we stand, the people's House, these airwaves and programming supported by the CPB also belong to the individuals we have the privilege to represent in Congress, and I have heard from hundreds of my constituents who have shared personal stories of the impact of PBS and NPR on their lives and the lives of their children.

KPCC, for example, in my district is just one of the many superb affiliates of NPR around the Nation. My constituents rely on KPCC, as they do on public broadcasting generally for news, informational programming, and educational programming for their kids; and I applaud the significant contributions they have made and others and the individual public broadcasting stations.

The legislation brought before the House today would have effectively gutted this fine institution of critical funding necessary to accomplish the vision laid out by President Johnson. The base bill would have cut a staggering $100 million, stripping the Corporation for Public Broadcasting of one-quarter of its funding.

Critics maintain that the CPB has strayed from its mandate of independence and impartiality. In fact, polls show a large majority of Americans think that the news and information programming is more trustworthy, more independent than that of network and cable programming. A majority of viewers also think PBS is a valuable educational and cultural resource. A poll commissioned by the board of directors confirmed that 48 percent of those surveyed believe that funding for public broadcasting should be increased, not decreased.

Mr. Speaker, I, too, am concerned about the independence of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and today, I reluctantly join with many of my colleagues in calling on the President to ask for the resignation of chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Kenneth Tomlinson. Mr. Tomlinson has actively sought to undermine, underfund, and ultimately dismantle the very organization he has been appointed to lead.

As the leader of CPB, Mr. Tomlinson should be advocating for the continued vitality of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Instead, he seems bent on politicizing its content, undermining the objectivity of its news analysis, and turning it into yet another partisan organ. Mr. Tomlinson has withheld publicly funded polls that show strong support for public broadcasting, and more recently, expressed his desire to nominate Patricia Harrison as the new president.

The nomination of Ms. Harrison, a former cochair of the Republican National Committee, further calls into question the impartiality of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and flies in the face of the mandate of President Johnson that the corporation was to be carefully guarded from government and party control. Mr. Tomlinson, regrettably, has not proved to be a good steward of the immense public trust placed in his charge.

Mr. Speaker, on that day in 1967, President Johnson had high hopes for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and said, ``Today we rededicate a part of the airwaves, which belong to all the people, and we dedicate them for the enlightenment of all the people.''

Today, I am proud we have beaten back this assault on public broadcasting and taken an important step to renew our commitment to public broadcasting and restore the funding and independence necessary to ensure that our children and their children will continue to enjoy quality, independent public broadcasting.

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