Three-quarters of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting budget — $430 million at the moment, or $430 million more than most House Republicans would like it to be — underwrites public television. The balance underwrites public radio. A case can be made that as wonderful as the programming on WTTW happens to be, there are equal wonders on cable channels. Not the same wonders, certainly — you won’t find Sesame Street or Chicago Tonight on HBO — but commensurate wonders.
There is no case to be made that if WBEZ shuts down you’ll find anything close to its programming on some other radio station.
CPB is under siege. So I was pleased the other day to get email from WBEZ’s general manager, Torey Malatia, that found him standing up for CPB and for the business he’s in. Understand, he said, in his message to the WBEZ membership, there is no federal bogeyman here: the CPB money supports about 900 local radio stations around the country, not national outfits like National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service whose “perceived failings” give conservatives the willies. “This is a crucial distinction,” wrote Malatia. And he noted, “Hundreds of public service radio and television stations in small- and medium-sized cities, mainly serving rural and racially diverse American communities, depend on this annual funding for 20%-30% of their budgets every year.”