CPB's appropriation request & justification

Detailed FY2017 Request

CPB distributes its appropriation in accordance with a statutory formula outlined in the Public Broadcasting Act. Ninety-five percent of CPB's appropriation goes directly to content development, community services, and other local station and system needs. Only five percent is allocated to administrative costs—an exceptionally low overhead rate compared to other nonprofits. By statute, Community Service Grants (CSGs), which go directly to local public television and radio stations, make up 70 percent of CPB's entire appropriation. Stations have wide latitude to use CSG funds to serve local needs in a manner they choose, which often includes community outreach, program purchasing, and local content development.

Also by statute, the System Support category funds projects that benefit the entire public broadcasting community, while the Television Programming and Radio Programming funds support the development of national content.

If Congress makes no changes to CPB's authorizing legislation and fully funds our request for a $445 million advance appropriation for FY 2017, the statutory categories under the Public Broadcasting Act would be funded as follows:

Public Television Station and Programming Grants — $298 million

Direct Station Grants (TV CSGs) — $222.8 million

By statute, stations use CSGs “for purposes related primarily to the production or acquisition of programming.”[1] The size of each station's CSG depends on factors (determined by CPB through periodic system consultations) such as size of station, the amount of nonfederal financial support raised, and the number of stations in a given market. Under current CPB policy, stations can use CSGs for one of seven categories of expenses: Programming and Production; Broadcasting, Transmission and Distribution; Program Information and Promotion; Fundraising and Membership Development; Underwriting and Grant Solicitation; Management and General; and Purchase, Rehabilitation or Improvement of Capital Assets.

In FY2012, CSGs made up 13 percent of the average public television station's total revenue, with stations using this funding to leverage other critical investments from station and local governments, universities, businesses, foundations, and viewers. For many public television stations serving rural areas, this percentage is significantly higher. See Appendix G for a full listing of station funding by state, the vast majority of which is CSG funding.

National Television Programming Grants — $74.6 million

The Public Broadcasting Act requires a set percentage of the CPB appropriation to go toward “national public television programming.”[2] CPB funds a broad array of national programs in support of the statutory mission to reach underserved audiences, fund independent producers, provide high-quality educational programming for children and adults, and other content-related activities. CPB anticipates that the following activities will receive Television Programming funding:

  • National Program Service ($26 million in FY2014): CPB funds the National Program Service (NPS) to support children's and prime-time television programming. NPS funding currently supports signature series and specials, including American Experience, American Masters, PBS NewsHour, NOVA, Nature, FRONTLINE, Washington Week, Wild Kratts, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and Sesame Street. Additional funding helps CPB support programming that engages, inspires, and educates children and adults.
  • Program Challenge Fund ($9 million in FY2014): CPB and PBS jointly administer the Program Challenge Fund (PCF) to support the production of high-quality, high-profile, limited documentary series which attract new audiences to public media. Recent PCF successes include: African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which chronicles African American history from slavery to the Obama presidency; and Latino Americans, which tells the story of Latinos from the 16th century to the present day, highlighting political and cultural issues.
  • Diversity and Innovation Fund ($7 million in FY2014): The Diversity and Innovation (D&I) Fund expands and diversifies the public television audience by supporting the production of diverse primetime and children's broadcast content as well as digital projects. The D&I Fund, established in 2009, has supported: Los Graduados, a special series on Latinos and the high-school dropout crisis; Ice Warriors, a documentary and digital project highlighting elite U.S. veteran athletes competing for Paralympic gold: Asian Chops about Asian food culture in America; Genealogy Roadshow, a four-part series that uses history and genealogy to connect participants and viewers from diverse backgrounds to their individual and family histories, and to their community; TED Talks: Education, bringing together civic and business leaders, educators and students to explore ways to help stem the dropout crisis; and March On Washington, a multiplatform project including a documentary about the movement leading up to the historic event, local content from twelve communities across the countries and online shorts that examine the March for a new generation. This year the D&I Fund, working with partners at PBS, will bring to air Coming Home with Wes Moore—a documentary series about returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from diverse backgrounds and the role they are playing in their communities.
  • Independent Television Service Programming ($14 million in FY2014): Pursuant to the Public Telecommunications Act of 1988, CPB contracts with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) to support independent producers and production entities. Funding for ITVS furthers the fundamental goals of expanding diversity and promoting innovation in public television broadcasting among producers, which, in turn, promotes a richer array of programming. ITVS recently launched Women and Girls Lead, a multiyear public media initiative consisting of more than 50 documentaries designed to educate and connect women, girls, and their allies to achieve equal access, freedom, and opportunity for women and girls worldwide. The centerpiece of this initiative was Half the Sky, a multi-media event based on the bestselling book of the same name by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. ITVS also funds the primetime broadcast series Independent Lens, public television's largest showcase of independent films. Recent productions include: The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights and Soul Food Junkies about the culture of traditional African American cuisine.
  • Minority Consortia ($4.2 million in FY2014): CPB funds five organizations which make up public television's minority consortia as part of its commitment to develop and fund quality, culturally diverse programming for the American viewing public. The five organizations represent African American, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Each organization selects and funds programs by, for, and about its community, awarding grants to producers for program production guiding the projects through distribution on public media.
  • General Program Fund ($14.4 million in FY2014): This fund provides support for public television content that has significant educational or cultural value which viewers are not likely to find elsewhere. For instance, it funds American cultural programming like A Capitol Fourth, PBS's annual Fourth of July concert, and the National Memorial Day Concert as well as Ken Burns' acclaimed documentaries. Mr. Burn's recent work includes The Central Park Five about five African American and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted of a crime; and The Address, which follows students with learning disabilities as they face challenges and triumphs in studying, memorizing, and publicly reciting The Gettysburg Address.

Public Radio Station and Programming Grants — $99.1 million

“Unrestricted” CSGs — $69.3 million

Like public television stations, eligible public radio stations also receive CSGs from CPB, though for radio, the CSG contains two types of funds: unrestricted and restricted. The unrestricted portion can be used for a variety of purposes, including local content development, community outreach, infrastructure maintenance, and other station needs.

“Restricted” CSGs — $22.8 million

Radio restricted CSGs are required by the Public Broadcasting Act “to be used for acquiring or producing [radio] programming that is to be distributed nationally and is designed to serve the needs of a national audience.” Broadly speaking, public radio stations use the restricted portion of their CSG to acquire programming from national producers such as NPR, Public Radio International, American Public Media, independent producers and other stations that produce national content.

Taken together, in FY2012, the latest year for which we have data, the average public radio station relied on both unrestricted and restricted grants for 8.5 percent of its annual revenue. However, for some stations, including those serving rural or Native American communities, the CSG provides the bulk of their funding. As with television CSGs, the size of each station's grant depends on factors such as population density of the market served, local need, and the amount of funds that stations can raise on their own.[3]

Radio Program Fund — $7 million

As on the television side, the Public Broadcasting Act directs CPB to invest a small portion of the appropriation in nationally-distributed radio programming projects. The Radio Program Fund supports the development of new public radio services and series, the production of urgent or timely content, the work of independent radio producers, programming for underserved and unserved audiences, and the development of innovative content forms.

  • CPB has supported numerous journalism projects that have introduced new approaches to producing and distributing news, by enhancing the capacity of local stations to contribute to the national news marketplace. CPB launched several Local Journalism Centers (LJCs) by funding editorial collaborations comprised of public radio and television stations focused on a single topic relevant to local, regional and national audiences. The LJCs included groups of stations looking at immigration issues in the Southwest, food and fuel in the Midwest, and the innovation economy in the Northeast. In addition, local stations have been granted CPB funds to address education issues that align with CPB's national American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen! initiative, which addresses the high school dropout crisis in our country.
  • The Southern California Public Radio One Nation Media Project serves the information needs of Latino and other multi-ethnic communities. The project, which has been placed in the national marketplace of public radio programming, uses community engagement strategies to attract more diverse audiences to the daily public affairs program, Take Two. The project is beginning to expand, diversify and transform the public media audience in its home market of Los Angeles signaling that it is an appealing program for other stations interested in expanding audience diversity.
  • StoryCorps is the groundbreaking public radio project that honors and celebrates American lives through listening. StoryCorps collects interviews from everyday Americans and edits them for national broadcast on public radio. The StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative is a major national project aimed at bridging the gap between the civilian population and the military community by recording, sharing, and preserving the stories of those individuals who serve and protect our county with their lives. All StoryCorps interviews are available online and are also archived at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.
  • The Moth Radio Hour features first person stories that speak to the diversity of the human experience. The stories are recorded live at events across the country for national distribution. The weekly program reaches listeners on more than 260 public radio stations and has become a popular fixture in public media. The Moth also collects and curates compelling stories of military service personnel and has produced an hour long special for Veterans Day.
  • State of the Re:Union is an innovative, multimedia, multi-platform project that travels the country creating content that highlights the distinctive culture and sensibilities of a community. The program airs on public radio stations across the nation and provides new, unique voices for public media – bringing younger and more diverse perspectives to the airwaves. Combined with its community engagement and social media activities, the project is pioneering an integrated approach to digital storytelling that reflects the diversity of America as it explores the themes, stories, challenges, and cultural components that personify communities across the country.
  • New Visions, New Voices brings more diverse voices to public media by featuring notable African American specialists and commentators. The grantee, Next Tier Solutions, produces short-form commentaries and hour-long specials featuring experts, analysts, and commentators from this new diverse group for distribution to stations across the country. The content that is produced is also marketed to national shows in public media to serve as regular contributors or as analysts and commentators on breaking news.
  • Native America Calling and National Native News cover a wide spectrum of Native American and Alaska Native issues and ensure that Native voices are heard in our national discourse. The two programs enrich the diversity of American media by educating the public with cultural offerings, questions, and dialogue not found in commercial media programming.
  • Undercurrents is a daily music service that provides an eclectic mix of Native, rock, folk, blues, world and reggae music to Native and non-Native listeners. Undercurrents is produced by Native owned RadioCamp LLC and is broadcast on 129 stations that include a growing number of Triple A stations.

System Support (or “Six Percent”) Funds — $26.7 million

The Public Broadcasting Act directs CPB to use six percent of the appropriation for “projects and activities that will enhance public broadcasting,”[4]. Also known as “System Support,” these funds help to drive leadership among stations, innovation within the system, and collaboration across the system to help ensure effective and efficient programs and services. For example, in 2012, CPB used System Support funds to support its American Graduate initiative, helping stations help their communities to address the national high school dropout crisis. In addition, System Support funds help to offset certain infrastructure costs mentioned in the Public Broadcasting Act such as interconnection and music royalty costs.

While it is not possible to predict all System Support needs in FY2017, the following projects are likely to continue to receive funding:

  • Expanding American Graduate: American Graduate brings public media together with key community stakeholders to improve student outcomes and raise academic achievement in support of ending the dropout crisis. Next year, CPB will expand successful models to bring meaningful impact and change to more communities at risk. Through the recently created $20 million American Graduate/PBS KIDS Fund, CPB and PBS will invest in the development of new tools to help parents better prepare their children ages 2 - 8 for educational success, to support teacher development, and that engage middle and high school youth to improve learning. Finally, working with producers, stations, and national content distributors, CPB will fund additional national multiplatform content to highlight new information and solutions as the issue unfolds.
  • Music Copyright Fees: The Public Broadcasting Act says System Support funds “shall be available for expenses incurred by the Corporation for…the payment of programming royalties and other fees,” and CPB has traditionally paid all broadcast and internet music licensing fees on behalf of public television and radio as a service to the station community. If stations paid these fees individually, the overall cost would be much greater. However, CPB payment of these fees could change in the future as these costs have continued to rise at a much faster pace than CPB's appropriation.
  • TV Interconnection Operating Grants: As directed by statute, CPB provides half of the cost of operating the interconnection system that PBS, regional distributors, local public television stations, and other entities will use to distribute programming material to public television stations nationwide.
  • System Efficiency: One of CPB's primary leadership responsibilities is to further the long-term health and sustainability of the public media system and, as such, CPB will continue to pursue projects that are focused on maximizing the resources stations have available for service. These initiatives, with the goal of managing the costs of overhead and operations to provide more resources for the content that audiences care about, include facilitating multi-station “central-cast” systems and cooperative back office operations; encouraging stations to come together through mergers and consolidations where appropriate; developing and implementing sustainable service models for regions served by economically-challenged stations that are the sole public television or radio providers to that community, and improving station fundraising efficiency.

    CPB Operations — $22.25 million

    The Public Broadcasting Act allocates no more than five percent of the overall CPB appropriation for CPB administrative expenses.

    1 47 U.S.C. 396(k)(7).

    2 47 U.S.C. 396(k)(3)(A)(ii).

    3 CPB incentivizes funds-matching by providing additional funding to stations that can leverage those dollars further.

    4 47 U.S.C. 396(k)(3)(A)(i)(II).

    5 7 U.S.C. 396(k)(3)(A)(i)(I).

About CPB

CPB promotes the growth and development of public media in communities throughout America.

Programs & Projects

CPB awards grants to stations and independent producers to create programs and services.