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Local public media says proposed budget cuts would impact them drastically

Blue Ridge PBS says 55% of its funding comes from public donations, about 32% from the CPB, and the rest from foundations and grants. (Photo: Annie Andersen)

ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) -- Along with major cuts to the state department and the EPA, some consumer products like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are also in danger of being cut.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting makes up 0.01% of the federal budget, or $445 million dollars. That equates to $1.35 per taxpayer.

Here locally, Blue Ridge PBS and WVTF Public Radio say they depend on that money.

At Blue Ridge PBS it funds about 32 percent of their budget. They get about 55 percent of their budget from private donations. The rest comes from grants and foundations, like the Paul Newman Foundation. Currently, the group is matching donations made to Blue Ridge PBS.

At WVFT about 7 percent comes from the government. That equates to about $230,000.

Both say if the money goes away, it would be devastating.

Glenn Gleixner, the general manager of WVTF said his stations wouldn't go dark with the budget cuts, but many would nationwide. Even still, he said the cuts would be drastic changes for the stations. "What do we cut? DO we cut service to rural areas that aren't able to supply as much funding to us? Do we cut back on staff? We don't want to do that. We're pretty thin right now for what we do," said Gleixner.

WVTF powers two stations. One is a jazz and classical music station, the other is Radio IQ, which features national NPR programming as well as local news stories.

At Blue Ridge PBS, the proposed cuts could force them to go off the air. President and CEO James Baum explained, "It certainly would damage us. There's no question about that. We'll do everything in our power to stay alive as we say. But what it could do, it could cause PBS to fail."

If PBS were to fail nationwide, local stations would be forced to create their own programming. With a smaller budget to work with, Baum says that's what could cause them to then fail.

Both say, it would be bad for the community if the stations were to go dark.

"We're an oasis on television," said Baum. He continued, saying "We also want to of course educate them and make sure that you have life-long learning. I mean, I can sit down and watch a program and feel like, oh I learned something. That's pretty cool."

Life-long learning is also a goal at WVTF. Geixner said, "Our hallmark is intelligent news and information, unbiased news and information. The honesty that you get from NPR journalism is probably unmatched."

Both Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner have come out against the Trump administration's proposed budget.

District 6 Congressman and Republican Bob Goodlatte issued a statement supporting it, saying "While I am still reviewing President Trump’s proposal and its impacts on the Sixth District specifically, this bold set of priorities is a strong step forward in reducing bureaucratic waste and ensuring a strong national defense."

Both Geixner and Baum are nervous the proposed cuts will go through, but are staying optimistic.

Geixner has asked that anybody who loves public broadcasting go to ProtectMyPublicMedia.org and sign its petition.

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