As Legislature Eyes Budget Cuts, Public Media Funding Targeted

The Legislature is considering halving the amount of funding available for public broadcasting.

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Rep. Lynn Gattis, a Wasilla Republican who chairs the Department of Administration finance subcommittee, introduced the cuts by saying the group was focused on essential needs.

“In this fiscal climate, the state should focus on mission critical services, reduce its footprint, and take this opportunity to get out of business that it doesn’t need to be in,” said Gattis at a Tuesday afternoon budget closeout. “This has truly been an opportunity to evaluate the wants versus the needs of state government.”

Between operations and infrastructure, public radio and television were granted $5 million in state funds in the last budget. With the proposal offered by the House Finance subcommittee, funding would be reduced to $2.5 million.

Tyson Gallagher, an aide for Gattis, explained that the cuts would be focused on outlets that have other broadcasting options in their service area. That includes commercial radio stations.

”With the advancements in technology and the development of other broadcast sources, there’s less of a need to maintain public service programming at comparable levels to prior years,” said Gallagher at the subcommittee hearing.

Last year, state grants contributed more than half a million dollars to Alaska Public Media’s $6 million budget, which includes the Southcentral station KSKA. KTOO, the Juneau public radio station, now gets 10 percent of its $2 million budget from state grants. KUAC, which is operated by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, receives nearly $250,000. Because of the station’s position within the university, it was targeted for cuts when the school was experiencing its own shortfall.

The changes will now be sent to the full House Finance Committee for consideration.