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Public Statements

American Public Broadcasting

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OWENS. Thank you very much. I appreciate your leadership on this.

When you talk about rural, I represent rural. Fourteen thousand square miles make up my district, a thousand miles around the perimeter. I live in a very rural place, and public broadcasting is extraordinarily important to each and every one of my constituents.

I have to do a bit of a disclaimer first. My wife works for our local television station. She's the education director. I volunteered at the station for 3 1/2 years, and I was the host of a television program. And I was also the lawyer for that station for about 25 years. So this is a real family affair for me.

I'm most disturbed because I see what's going on in this situation is really a slash-and-burn tactic that is primarily focused on public broadcasting. It is an attempt to take the continuing resolution and make it into a piece of ideology. That's not what our constituents are asking of us. They want us to make an economic decision and do an economic analysis of where we are and where we're going.

I think it's extraordinarily important that we focus on the economics of the debt and the deficit and not on ideology; we have an opportunity to act rationally and in a bipartisan fashion, as we did in the last lame duck session of Congress. Our friends and neighbors at home demand no less. I can agree to cut $100 billion dollars, which is actually about 3 percent of this year's budget, if we do it by sharing the pain.

Let me tell you a little bit about public broadcasting. My children grew up with it. It is part of the education that my family experienced. My grandchildren are growing up with it. This is the best in family values and quality programing that you're going to see. If our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are concerned about the development of morals, integrity, and education, then public broadcasting is a place they should support, not kill.

Just a few thoughts. My public television station provides essential services to that upstate rural community I talked about. It's aligned with their mission to inform, educate, involve, and entertain. Public broadcasting is America's largest classroom, closing the achievement gap through innovative standards-based educational content and resources for parent, teachers, and students. Public broadcasting serves as a trusted partner and agent of better citizenship in the world's greatest democracy.

Public broadcasting is not a luxury we can't afford but an essential service regularly depended on and enjoyed by 170 million Americans in all 50 States.

Let me repeat that; 170 million Americans support public broadcasting. Cutting or eliminating Federal funding for public broadcasting will have a severe negative impact on local services and economies in all 50 States.

Let me point out that public broadcasting directly supports 21,000 jobs, and almost all of them are in local public radio stations in hundreds of communities in America. Science-focused programing at all age levels, from Sid the Science Kid to NOVA, supports the acquisition of 21st century problem-solving science skills.

I could go on. It's clear that public broadcasting brings a dimension to education that we see in no other modality available to us. I agree that reducing spending is a priority, but it must be achieved without resorting to ideological slash-and-burn tactics that will not allow us to facilitate a compromise with the Senate and White House, which brings real reduction in spending based upon the shared pain, which we all understand is needed. Thank you very much.


Mr. OWENS. In my conversations that I've had the opportunity to have over the last couple of days, clearly, public broadcasting understands that they are going to have to share the pain with everyone else. It's one thing to cut somebody's budget by 3 or 4 percent. It's another thing to eliminate somebody's budget. No one survives when somebody's budget is eliminated. People survive and prosper when they have to make up 3 or 4 percent. That's what I'm urging our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to really think about it.


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