Wisconsin public broadcasting is expected to take a hit in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget if approved by the state's legislature.
Walker is proposing that Wisconson's Educational Communications Board budget be cut from $19 million per year by $2.5 million over the next two years, as part of his plan to balance the budget, the Wisconsin State Journal reported
The Wisconsin Republican is also proposing that the University of Wisconsin System take a $150 million per year cut, which helps operate Wisconsin's public television and radio stations along with the ECB. Wisconsin Public Radio is headquartered at the UW-Madison campus.
About 500,000 Wisconsin residents watch and listen to Wisconsin public broadcasting programming. There are also approximately 1.2 million Wisconsin students who take advantage of the ECB's multimedia instructional materials.
In addition to local programming, ECB also uses its budget to purchase some national programming.
Six Wisconsin public television stations, six low-power translators, and 34 public radio stations make up the entire network. The contribution from the University of Wisconsin system helps to pay for programming as well as the salaries of the approximately 200 public radio and television employees.
The Walker administration is defending the cuts, saying that public television and radio stations are able to do their own fundraising.
"We estimate that the ECB will be able to make up the difference in program revenue through grants, gifts, and private donations," said Laurel Patrick, Walker's spokeswoman.
Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's office expressed the same sentiment, and the state's Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also supports the cuts. Both leaders are Republicans.
"Speaker Vos doesn't have a problem with the proposed cut because with so many media options these days, government should no longer subsidize one particular outlet," said Kit Beyer, spokeswoman for Vos.
"He is confident that listeners and viewers will more than make up for any decrease," Beyer added.
Right now, 40 percent of the ECB's funding comes from the state's budget. If Walker's proposals are passed, that funding will drop to 27 percent.
Other budget cuts
proposed by the Wisconsin governor include the merging of state agencies, an end to caps on vouchers for those students attending private schools and a two-year tuition freeze for the University of Wisconsin System.
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