Shortchanged on Sesame St.

It may be dreary days ahead for the people that brought “Sesame Street,” “Reading Rainbow” and countless other programs into the homes of millions.

Earlier this month, President Bush submitted his proposed 2007 budget to Congress with steep cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In remarks on the CPB’s 2007 budget, President and CEO Patricia de Stacy Harrison said they amounted to nearly a 25 percent reduction from 2006 and noted the cuts would be felt in all levels of public programming.

CPB is the largest single source of funding for Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

According to Harrison, the president’s proposed budget for the CPB included a $53.5 million cut from the $400 million already appropriated by Congress for 2007, a $50 million cut from the $400 million already appropriated by Congress for 2008 and no advance funding for 2009.

“Needless to say, we at CPB are very disappointed by the funding levels for public broadcasting recommended in the president’s budget,” Harrison said. But she stressed the proposals were part of a long process.

The proposals are “more of the same from Bush,” to Tania Panczyk-Collins, communications director of the Association of Public Television Stations, a Washington D.C. based non-profit, public TV advocacy group. But Panczyk-Collins added it was too early to tell if they would pass.

And the odds are stacked against the president.

She cited past cut proposals that met opposition in a Republican-controlled Congress.

But even though the cuts aren’t likely to pass, stations are still tightening their belts.

“The issue with public television is that we’re looking at flat-funding. And in an inflationary economy, that’s not good,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, executive director of WBGU-TV, Bowling Green’s local public TV station.

He added that the state of Ohio has cut funding to WBGU by 30 percent in last few years.

In the search for new revenue, WBGU, like public TV stations across the country, has increasingly turned to private, local support to meet their needs.

“It’s of growing importance and valued by us,” Fitzgerald said.

To Fitzgerald and many others in public broadcasting, it’s the community connection and content quality that sets public programming apart from corporate media.

“Public TV remains the only locally owned and operated media,” Fitzgerald said.

WBGU-TV not only serves the local community, but it also provides telecommunication services to BGSU. The station’s Television Learning Services department, for example, provides closed circuit programming to classes on campus.

The closed circuit TV system transmits television programs to all University classroom buildings, the Jerome Library and some office and residential buildings.

In addition to WBGU’s video support, made-for-PBS documentaries often find their way into classrooms.

“It’s nice to make a visual example [of course concepts],” said Robert Sloane, instructor of American Culture Studies.

Sloane has used documentaries on race, class and music in his courses.

“Of anything I’ve found, it’s the best combination. It’s well-produced, entertaining, arresting visually, and more exciting than me droning on,” Sloane said.

Nationwide, CPB supports 790 non-profit, non-commercial radio stations and 356 television stations.

CPB’s share of the federal budget, without the proposed cuts, represents a tiny .014 percent of the government’s $2.77 trillion dollar tab for 2007.

According to Free Press, another D.C.-based group that advocates for non-profit, non-commercial media and public awareness, federal funds only make up about 15 percent of most public stations’ budgets.

Broken down, roughly one dollar of every American’s taxes go to public broadcasting.

But despite that being a drop in the fiscal bucket, the debate has sparked passion on both sides of the political spectrum. started an e-mail petition to lobby Congress to oppose the cuts, and just last week, the conservative American Family Association began a counter-petition to Congress trying to eliminate all federal funding for the CPB, which they contend has the most liberal slant in news.

“This debate has been going on for decades,” said Frannie Wellings, associate policy director at Free Press. “People can argue on the left and right, but you can’t argue with the polls that show PBS is the most trusted media source.”

Fitzgerald also cited the Roper Report, which found PBS to be the most trusted programming for the third year in a row. Fitzgerald said PBS provides the highest quality content.

“Whether it’s children’s programming, entertainment, or news, there’s no question,” he said.