CPB’s Federal Appropriation Request & Justification

Detailed FY 2021/2023 Request

Public Television Station and Programming Grants
Public Radio Station and Programming Grants
System Support (or “Six Percent”) Funds
CPB Operations

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 $515 million advance appropriation for FY 2023, the statutory categories under the Public Broadcasting Act would be funded as follows:

Specific Allocations

Public Television Station and Programming Grants
$343.76 million

Direct Station Grants (TV CSGs) — $257.82 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, the rurality of the audience served, 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 FY2018, CSGs made up 16.7% 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 — $85.94 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:

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 and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Additional funding helps CPB support programming that engages, inspires, and educates children and adults.
CPB expands and diversifies the public television audience by supporting the production of diverse primetime and children's broadcast content as well as digital projects. In recent years, CPB funding has supported: On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam, a documentary that explores the Latino experience during the Vietnam War; The #InspiringWoman community engagement campaign for the American Masters film Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise; and The Graduates/Los Graduados. Support is also provided for translation services for news and election programming to bring younger and more diverse audiences to public television.
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 also funds the primetime broadcast series Independent Lens, public television's largest showcase of independent films. Recent productions include: Class of ’27, which examines the challenges facing students in rural communities on the path to graduation; Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and The Bad Kids, a day-to-day portrait of a school principal’s work at a struggling alternative high school for at-risk youth in a Mojave Desert community.
CPB funds five organizations which make up public television's National Multicultural Alliance as part of its commitment to develop and fund quality, culturally diverse programming for the American viewing public. They are: Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), Black Public Media (BPM), Pacific Islander in Communications (PIC) and Vision Maker Media (VMM, formerly Native American Public Telecommunications), and other producers providing unique programming for radio listeners. These organizations provide much needed content about diverse communities to the public television system. Each organization selects and funds programs by, for and about its community, awarding grants to producers for program production and guiding the projects through distribution on public media.
This fund provides support for public television content that has significant educational or cultural value which viewers are not likely to find elsewhere. The Fund supports American cultural programming like A Capitol Fourth, PBS's annual Fourth of July concert, and the National Memorial Day Concert. Other examples include Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and The Vietnam War. Finding Your Roots explores the ancestry of dozens of influential people from diverse backgrounds. Ken Burns' acclaimed 10-part documentary The Vietnam War sheds new light on the military, political, cultural, social, and human dimensions of a tragedy that took the lives of 58,000 Americans and as many as three million Vietnamese, polarizing American society in the process as nothing has since the Civil War.

Public Radio Station and Programming Grants — $114.59 million

“Unrestricted” CSGs — $80.21 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 — $26.36 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 FY2017, the latest year for which we have data, the average public radio station relied on both unrestricted and restricted grants for 8.2% 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 — $8.02 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.

  • Since 2009, CPB has funded 34 local, state and regional journalism collaborations, involving 139 public radio and television stations in 42 states. These collaborations range from the Ohio Valley ReSource, which focuses on rural issues in Kentucky, West Virginia and southeast Ohio, to the California Dream, covering economic opportunity and quality of life in the state. Other collaborations focus on specific journalism approaches such as investigative reporting and multimedia production.
  • CPB supports NPR News’s International Coverage, helping to defray the costs incurred by NPR’s 17 international bureaus as they cover news from around the world.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Project Catapult enhances public media’s content offerings by stations’ ability to produce local content for podcast distribution. Nashville Public Radio, WV Public Radio, St Louis Public Radio, WNIN (Evansville, IN), WYPR (Baltimore), KUOW (Seattle), and KALW (San Francisco) will explore diverse topics in seven new podcasts.
  • The Urban Alternative is an innovative public radio music format developed to appeal to attract diverse, next generation listeners to public media. Pioneered by Chicago Public Radio, CPB will support the expansion of the new format to additional markets.
  • Years before opioid addiction was declared a national crisis, local public media stations were bringing awareness to the issue in their communities. Today, they continue to produce original local reporting and foster community conversations on its impact. In Ohio, AAA station WAPS-FM “The Summit” created the Rock and Recovery format in 2011, offering upbeat rock music, affirmations and resources to raise awareness, remove stigma and offer hope to those in recovery and their loved ones. With support from the United Way, Rock and Recovery airs 24/7 via an HD channel, online, free mobile app and three hours nightly in Akron, Canton, Youngstown and western Pennsylvania.

System Support (or “Six Percent”) Funds — $30.90 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 2018, CPB used System Support funds for its American Graduate initiative, to support stations’ community-based work helping young people succeed in school, jobs and careers. 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 FY2022, the following projects are likely to continue to receive funding:

  • American Graduate: CPB’s American Graduate initiative is public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help young people succeed in school, jobs and career. Public television and radio stations have engaged with more than 1,700 partners, businesses, educators, faith based and other organizations, across the country to tell the stories of youth at risk and the supportive adults and communities that help them succeed. Through American Graduate, public media, with its unique position as a trusted resource and important partner in local communities, provides an informational conduit identifying pathways to graduation, job readiness and career success. All of these efforts, in combination with those of our partners, have helped reduce the high-school drop-out rate to 15.35 percent— the lowest on record. Last year, American Graduate began raising awareness and understanding about the skills gap, and the essential education and training needed for the high-demand careers of today and the future.
  • 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, including facilitation of multi-station joint master control 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.

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).