Budget cuts to public radio, broadcasting
Deep cuts proposed for the Kansas state budget might cease funding for Kansas Public Broadcasting. This would remove $117,000 from KRPS FM Radio’s budget next year. This is close to 18 percent of the station’s total funding.
Missi Kelly, general manager of KRPS, declined to comment on what changes the funding cut, which would take effect on July 1 if it passes, would have on the station. Kelly cited a possible federal funding cut, which would remove almost 20 percent of the station’s funding, as the reason she could not make predictions.
“To the people who don’t take advantage of it, it just looks like a dollar sign and a bottom line,” said Erica Edwards, instructor in communication and former KOAM news anchor.
KRPS airs news and educational programs, such as “The Animal House,” an hour-long discussion of animal sciences, and “You Bet Your Garden,” which offers advice on gardening. The station also plays a seven-hour block of classical music and a nightly jazz program Monday through Friday. On weekends, the station plays blues, “The Thomas Jefferson Hour,” (a political show) and a health show titled “Dr. Zorba Paster,” to name a few.
“We’re cultural outreach from PSU,” Kelly said. “We provide a window to the arts and to localism.”
While other public radio stations also to be affected by the proposed cuts are encouraging viewers to send Gov. Sam Brownback prewritten letters saying that they don’t want to see their favorite programming disappear, Edwards says that programming cuts might not be on the chopping block.
“Speaking hypothetically, pay freezes are probably the first thing,” Edwards said. “Open positions could remain open, and there could be pay cuts. Those are typical across the board.”
Edwards says that there are so many variables from one station to another that KRPS’s specific reaction to the funding cuts would be difficult to predict.
Kelly says that in fiscal year 2011, KRPS depended on state funding for nearly 20 percent of its budget, while another 60 percent came from community support.
“To keep the budget at the level it’s at now, it would require more support from our listeners,” Kelly said. “We feel they’ve already done wonders in supporting us. They’ve done their part.”
Kansas public radio, which relies heavily on state funding, dodged a deep budget cut last year under Gov. Mark Parkinson, who vetoed the proposed cut in May. Critics of the cut are concerned that Brownback does not understand the significance of public radio, while supporters believe that the cuts were necessary.
Sherriene Jones-Sontag, spokesperson for Brownback, told the Collegio that the new cuts will honor previous obligations to public broadcasting, but that all other funding had to go so that obligations to Medicaid, public education and public safety could be met.
“The governor’s priority is to get the economy growing again,” said Jones-Sontag. “For fiscal year 2012, difficult budget decisions were made, but we hope to revisit these difficult decisions a year or two from now.”
Brownback’s budget cut also includes a 10 percent pay cut for himself, and he has asked his staff to take the same percentage of a cut. Cutting public radio and public broadcasting from the budget is in line with Brownback’s voting history while he was in the U.S. Senate.
“Everyone has the right to their opinion,” Kelly said, speaking of Brownback’s voting history.
Jones-Sontag says that Brownback has no ill will toward public radio or broadcasting.
“We have to make sure, at the end of the day, that we can pay the bills,” Jones-Sontag said.
In the face of the potential state and federal budget cuts, which could slash nearly 40 percent of KRPS’s total funding, Kelly remains hopeful about the station’s future.
“We’ll sound different,” Kelly said. “But I have faith that we will emerge.”